How can you find grants for your church or nonprofit to help with your mission?
First, I want to say make sure you are ready for grants. Being ready means having organizational, operational, financial, and programmatic things in place. To make sure you are ready, read my blog series Is Your Nonprofit Ready for Grant Money? A How To Know Guide?
If you are ready for grants, then you want to find the Foundations which closely align with your mission. So many organizations try to make their mission fit the Foundation’s areas of focus. That is completely backwards.
What are some ideas to identify these organizations?
Look at your Board. Who do they know? Ask them what other Boards they sit on. Do they know someone who sits on a Foundation Board? If so, ask them to make the introduction. The Foundation may not be a good fit for your organization but they may be able to connect you with a Foundation that is.
Did your organization get an unsolicited gift from a Foundation? This is not a grant and the letter that comes with the check will use the term “gift”. I am always surprised when I find out an organization received such a letter and did not act upon it beyond a thank you letter. I often hear, “yeah, so and so is on the Board and we assume he is behind the check.” This scenario is a dream situation. Apply for a grant at the next grant cycle. They have already said they like you!
Google Foundations in (your geographic area or close large city). You will be surprised how many are close by. Make a list with their website. Research them to see if they are a fit for your organization.
Pay attention when you see a newspaper article or social media post about an organization receiving funds. If the organization is in the same field as you, take note of the Foundation. You may be eligible for a grant from the same Foundation.
Search for social media groups which focus on grants. These groups often post grants and their deadlines. LinkedIn has some very good groups for this purpose.
Put some money into a grant database. I use Foundation Directory Online. Foundation Directory Online is a paid service but many libraries offer access for free. Grant Station and Grant Gopher are other sources. With Foundation Directory Online, I can see the Board of Directors on a Foundation which I can ask the Board if they know any of the Foundation people. I can also search for grants based on areas of interest, subject and geographical focus. This search gives me a list of grants that I can research further to determine fit. Fit is key to successful grants.
The above information also applies to churches. Start within and move outward. You may be surprised how many of your congregation is on a Foundation Board or knows someone on a Foundation Board. Talk to them about their Foundation and ask if your church project is a fit. One thing I found writing grants for Churches is that Foundations like to invest in a specific project that reaches out to the community and not just their congregation. It may also need to be open to people who don’t identify as a church goer. So make sure you have a specific community outreach project before you contact a Foundation.
Use a grant database. You will be surprised the grants available for religion, christians, and christianity. See the last bullet point in the nonprofit section for more information.
Churches also have a unique source- your larger denomination- for grants. Many denominations like Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, Jewish, and United Methodist have grants available for the churches they serve. Check with the national organization to see grant opportunities.
Some Family Foundations specify Christians, Christianity, or a specific denomination that they invest in. They may only invest in mission work! When searching, make sure to pay close attention to Family Foundations. They already like you.
These tips will get you started finding grants for your church or nonprofit. Research from there will be key to finding the right Foundation for your mission.
Alesha Mathis has been in the nonprofit world for ten years serving as an Administrative Secretary, Marketing and PR Coordinator, Program Coordinator, and Board Officer. Alesha worked for nonprofits with over 400 employees and multi-million dollar budgets and nonprofits with less than 10 employees and under a million dollar budget. While working for smaller organizations, she realized the professional fundraising and marketing skills of the bigger nonprofits at affordable rates was needed. Her solution was starting Mathis Nonprofit Services. Mathis Nonprofit Services takes on the two big challenges small nonprofits and churches face when it comes to marketing and fundraising/stewardship- professional solutions at affordable rates.