Grant Funding Opportunities
Leaders of many faith-based organizations cringe at the very thought of receiving grant funds or incorrectly assume that they are not eligible for grant funding. I believe the reason so many view receiving grant funds negatively is that there are misconceptions about grant funding.
Often, when grant funds are discussed, it is thought that what is spoken of are government grants. However, in addition to government grants, there are foundations that will fund the work of faith-based organizations.
Most organizations receive financial support from a variety of donors. In some cases, these same individuals have established foundations as the vehicle through which they donate. Generally, contributions through a foundation come as a grant.
I will provide some insights and tips on getting grant funding, how to build a case for support and where funding opportunities can be found.
Quite often a search for grant funding begins with a Google search which then inevitably leads to frustration on the part of the searcher. It is difficult and challenging at best to find foundations via a broad Google search. Instead, use one of the readily available grant databases to identify foundations. These are specialized databases which allow you to search by geographic terms, location of the foundation, location of the organization seeking funding and the type of project for which funding is being sought (i.e., capital project, operating project, etc.)
Using these databases, faith-based organizations will inevitably encounter foundations who indicate they will not fund “religious” organizations. Before eliminating them as a possibility, dig a little deeper to determine if they will “not fund” Christian work such as evangelism efforts or if they will fund Christian organizations who are engaged in humanitarian type work. Usually, a distinction is made between these two.
When researching potential foundations, it is always best to start with local foundations as they often have a vested interest in strengthening and improving their local community. This is not going to be possible for organizations involved in international work.
Another tip for research success is to identify other organizations similar to yours that are receiving grant funding. This information gives you a starting point for digging deeper since you now know that the funder is interested in the type of work you are doing.
Building a Case for Support
Think about grant funding as an investment in the work being done by the organization.
Think about grant funding as an investment in the work being done by the organization. When an investment is made, the funder wants to know about the return on that investment. For a nonprofit or ministry, the return on investment is the lives that are being changed as a result of the program or service provided by the organization. Unfortunately, many organizations are not very good at capturing this information.
Spend some time with your team brainstorming how you make a difference in the lives of those being served. For a soup kitchen type program, it may be related to the number of people you serve. For a crisis pregnancy center, it will be the number of babies born. For an evangelistic program, it may be confessions of faith. Once identified, it will be important to develop organizational procedures for tracking the data collected.
Since grant funding requires balancing the heart (emotions) and the head (logic), it will be important for your proposals to do the same. You can appeal to the heart by telling stories. Thus, make it an organizational practice to capture stories of success of those you are serving. Put these stories in a file that can be used in grant proposals (with all identifying information removed). The head or rational, logical side of people can be stimulated by providing numbers of people served. A grant proposal can be a powerful document that communicates the needs the organization is meeting as well as the results being achieved.
An additional step in building a case for support for your grant proposal is to identify the needs that your organization is working to solve. It is important to communicate the needs of those you are serving and not the needs of the organization. The organization is simply a tool to meet the needs of your target population. Again, to appeal to both emotions and logic, blend data (numbers) with stories that paint pictures of those who access your services or programs.
Grant funding can be a viable source of funding in your fund development plan. Accessing foundation funds strengthens your organization as you diversify funding and introduce others to the kingdom work you are doing.
Debbie DiVirgilio is a Certified Governance Trainer through BoardSource and a Licensed Standards for Excellence Consultant. Holding a Master’s in Nonprofit Management, she is Grant Professional Certified and a CCNL. She runs the Faith Based Nonprofit Resource Center which exists to help organizations fulfill their missions. Debbie can be reached at Debbie@non-profitconsultant.com.