Grants are just one of the many ways that your nonprofit can find funding to launch or expand a program. But where do you find grants for nonprofits? And who are the organizations giving them out? In this blog post, I’ll share some basics for six different types of organizations that offer grants for nonprofits, where to find them, how they work, and how to determine if they are the best fit for your cause.
For each type of grant, I’ll explain what the grantmaking organization is, how to find the types of grants they offer, and the Pros and Cons of pursuing those types of grants — basically, whether they’d be a good fit for your organization and worth your time applying for them.
Let’s dive right in!
#1: Corporate Foundation Grants for Nonprofits
What is a corporate foundation?
A corporate foundation is a separate organization set up by a company for the explicit purpose of giving out charitable grants to nonprofits. You’ve probably heard of a few — think of entities like the Bank of American Foundation or the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation.
How to find corporate foundations:
You might start by using online search tools like foundationcenter.org to search for different foundations. Additionally, check a company’s website for information on charitable giving or corporate social responsibility. You can literally do an internet search for “(Company Name) + Foundation” and if they have a corporate foundation, it’s likely to come up in your search results.
Pros and Cons of Corporate Foundation Grants:
- Pros: Potential for substantial funding and long-term relationships. If you can get your ‘in’ with a corporate foundation, you may be able to receive support over several years.
- Cons: Highly competitive, challenging to establish relationships. Like many types of foundations, corporate foundations get hundreds or even thousands of grant requests per year.
Are corporate foundations a good fit for your nonprofit?
Like with any grants, consider your nonprofit organization’s mission alignment with the company’s priorities and brand. If your organization tackles food insecurity, is that a cause the company states it cares about on it’s website? Do your homework. And whenever possible or appropriate (some foundations prefer that you don’t try to talk to them before applying), build relationships before applying for a grant. A personal connection to the foundation can increase your odds of grant success.
#2: Corporate Giving Programs
What are corporate giving programs?
These programs allow employees at a company to make charitable donations to nonprofits through their company’s charitable giving platforms. They may include employee committees, matching gift programs, or direct donations. Sometimes employees set up recurring donations to a nonprofit of their choice to be automatically deducted from their payroll.
How to find corporate giving programs:
It starts with knowing or getting introduced to people who work at that company and building a relationship. Sometimes, you can even try to schedule a presentation at a company employee meeting to introduce your cause to many employees at once! To find companies that even have employee giving programs, try websites like doublethedonation.com and matchinggifts.com which list companies with these programs.
Pros and Cons of Corporate Giving Programs:
- Pros: It may be easier to start a conversation with a single employee than with a corporate foundation officer.
- Cons: These will be smaller donations than large foundation grants, and there may still be some competition for employee’s attention and donations.
Are corporate giving programs a good fit for your nonprofit?
These types of giving programs are especially ideal for smaller or newer organizations, since it allows you to build relationships with employees at companies over time, and grow your giving program as your relationships grow.
#3: Family Foundation Grants for Nonprofits
What are family foundations?
Family foundations are private foundations established by individuals or families to organize their charitable giving. They may be established as independent entities, or through a donor advised fund (we’ll get to the “donor advised fund” topic in another blog post!).
How to find family foundations:
These can often fly under the radar. Many don’t even have websites or email addresses. You can start by using foundation search tools like foundationcenter.org and guidestar.org (you may need to create a free account). Through GuideStar especially you can search using the search term “family foundation”, then by looking at their annual tax records you can see some of their past grantmaking activities to understand what types of causes they typically donate to.
Pros and Cons of Family Foundation Grants:
- Pros: Potential for substantial and ongoing support. If you can establish an authentic, meaningful relationship with a family member that is part of a family foundation, and really help them connect personally to your cause, it could lead to sustained giving.
- Cons: Since these can be more elusive, it may be difficult to establish relationships with people who have family foundations.
Are Family Foundations a good fit for your nonprofit?
Similar to other types of foundations, researching a family foundation’s giving priorities is critical. If you can make your case and demonstrate the effectiveness of your nonprofit programs, these foundations can be easier to get support from than larger scale corporate foundations.
#4: Community Foundation Grants for Nonprofits
What are community foundations?
As the name suggests, community foundations are public charities that pool funds from multiple sources to make grants based on community needs and priorities. They often serve a specific geographic area, such as a city, county, or designated region.
How to find community foundations:
Search online for “community foundation + your city” or “county.” You can also visit the Council of Foundations website for a nationwide list.
Pros and Cons of Community Foundation Grants:
- Pros: It’s relatively easy to start a conversation with a community foundation – just reach out to their grant program officers and ask if you can meet and share more about your cause and learn more about their giving efforts! The worst that could happen is you realize your organization is not a good fit for their grantmaking programs after you chat.
- Cons: Giving priorities may change over time because they are evolving to meet their community’s current needs. They may not be an ideal source of ongoing funding, but for one-time grants, maybe?
Are community foundations a good fit for your nonprofit?
These grants are ideal for organizations aligning strongly with localized needs, so do your homework on their funding interests.
#5: Federal Government Grants for Nonprofits
What are federal government grants?
These grants are offered by the federal government through grants.gov and support a wide range of nonprofit activities.
How to find federal government grants:
Visit grants.gov and search for available grants and requests for proposals (RFPs).
Pros and Cons of Federal Government Grants:
- Pros: If you can get a federal grant, it could mean substantial, multi-year funding.
- Cons: Federal grant applications are usually reaaaallly long and complex. You may have to deal with extensive paperwork, reporting, and eligibility requirements. Having proven success under your belt before you apply is a must.
Are federal government grants a good fit for your nonprofit?
These grants are suitable for nonprofits offering services that align with federal priorities, and probably best for organizations with the tools and know-how to collect a lot of data on the success of their programs — Be prepared for rigorous reporting.
#6: Local Government Grants for Nonprofits
What are local government grants?
These grants are offered by city or county governments from their annual budgets to support nonprofit initiatives.
How to find local government grants:
Quite simply: Search online for “city name + nonprofit grants” or “county name + nonprofit grants.”
Pros and Cons of Local Government Grants:
- Pros: These may also offer significant funding amounts. Also, a grant from a government entity can mean increased credibility for your nonprofit for other funders, too.
- Cons: Similar to federal grants, you may face a long application, a lot of paperwork and stringent eligibility requirements.
Are local government grants a good fit for your nonprofit?
Does your City or County have a strategic plan? I recommend reading through that first to check for your organization’s alignment with local priorities. You’ll need to demonstrate how your nonprofit is also furthering the broader goals of the local government entity.
Finding the best grants for your nonprofit
In conclusion, there are a lot of options out there — but the best grants for your nonprofit depend on your organization’s size, mission, and alignment with the grantmaker’s current priorities. Always aim to build relationships, research, and adapt your approach to fit the specific type of grant you’re pursuing. Grants can be one of many valuable funding sources for your nonprofit, but they require effort and persistence to secure.
Good luck in your grant-seeking journey!
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