Most nonprofit organizations rely on grants to fund at least a portion of their programs. As you look for grants, it is important to know what type of funding is available and where to look. Considering federal grants alone, there are more than 2,000 current opportunities with 42,000 archived. Working through all of those funding sources can be a tedious process, but we have tips and resources to get you started.
Pro Tip: Sign up for a Google Alert with keywords to be notified via email anytime your search shows up online.
Each year, the federal government determines what its priorities are and allocates funding accordingly. Funds are broken down to various departmental agencies for further allocation at state and local levels. Examples include the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Service and the National Endowment for the Arts. You can learn about these grants in two ways:
Requests for Proposal (RFP): Government agencies will put out a request for a proposal when they have funding available. There will be terms listed in the RFP that provide direction for what types of programs they are seeking to fund. RFPs are sent to larger organizations for review, so it is important to build relationships with nonprofits that share a similar mission to yours. When opportunities become available, hopefully, they will be shared with you because of the relationships you have established.
Searching Online: By visiting Grants.gov you can search all available funding opportunities. Determine what keywords fit in with what you’re trying to accomplish and use those to conduct a search. You can also narrow your search by specific government agencies that your work falls under. Instead of searching time and time again, sign up to receive email notifications when new RFPs are added to the site.
You can also build relationships with people in your area who can alert you to government funding opportunities that fit with your mission. A great place to start is with your local congressional representative. They will have a copy of the national registry with government funding opportunities that are available for the year.
Many times families or organizations will create a foundation. These foundations are usually created with a specific focus in mind, so look for foundations that fit with your mission. The best approach to searching for foundations is to focus on what is local or regional. Foundations often focus their funding within a locality in which the foundation was established, although they may grow and change over time. Foundations are a great way to seek consistent funding. Once you build a relationship and prove that your work is valuable to the community, it will be easier to get funding the next time you apply.
You can also use sites like the Foundation Center or Guidestar to quicken your search. Some sites like these require a membership, but others are free to access. You’ll be able to search federal tax records (form 990s) from foundations and get an idea of what kind of funding they have available. From there, you can search their website or reach out to their board to learn more about their specific funding opportunities.
There’s nothing better than having the resources you need to find #grantopportunities.
While some larger corporations establish foundations, with corporate philanthropy on the rise many businesses give to nonprofits without having a foundation. Getting funding from a local business will help you when applying for federal funding. As you can imagine, the government RFPs receive many responses. Those reviewing grant applications do their best to determine which programs are the best opportunities to make an impact.
One way reviewers can determine the value in your program is by the amount of local support your organization has. People and businesses in your community who have money to give charitably could donate to any nonprofit they like. But when they make a donation to you, it establishes that they support and believe in what you are trying to achieve.
While it can be tedious, check websites of businesses in your area to find out how they give back. If they only give back a couple of times per year, add it to your calendar for when they are requesting applications for funding. If you don’t find anything online, you can also reach out to businesses to find out if they give back and what their focus areas are.
Writing proposals for grants takes time. Spend more time on applications and less on searching for grants with these tips for finding funding. Remember, you can end up with a long list of funding opportunities. The best way to manage opportunities over time is to take notes or create a spreadsheet to track when you should apply.