How to fund your 501 C3
Grants – the name itself conjures up feelings of red tape and bliss. However, for NPOs they can be an essential tool for success.
On the bright side, grants can be obscenely generous, they tend to attract additional grants, and they’re validating – the problem is applying for them requires some grant savvy. The best way to break the ice is to identify the…
Types of grants available for NPOs
The list of grants offered to nonprofits is much too long to list, and even the types of grants are quite extensive. So, here’s a collection of some of the more common genres of grants available for NPOs, to help determine what’s best for yours.
Start-up grants. Also referred to as “seed money,” the idea is to give an initial boost to promising NPOs so they can focus on getting the ball rolling rather than raising money. The downside is they typically decrease each year – they’re not intended to be permanent.
In-kind grants. Sometimes goods and services are just as useful as funding, and they can come in unexpected ways. For example, it’s not uncommon for foundations to provide human resources, such as legal and accounting services. This genre also includes marketing grants to help get your NPO noticed.
Endowment grants. This breed of grant contributes the interest of an investment, on the contingency that the principal funds remain untouched. The principal can also be added to via other contributors, or fundraising campaigns.
Planning grants. Evolving your NPO consumes valuable resources that can be prohibitive. Planning grants are kind of like seed money for new development; they fund the pre-execution effort required to advance your mission.
Donor-directed grants. Having donors on your side can be advantageous beyond their direct contributions. In some circumstances, individuals involved in foundations are in positions to influence how that organization’s funds are directed – this is called a “donor direct grant,” and it’s usually listed as individual giving by nonprofits.
Where to look for grants
Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, the next step is where to find it.
Board members. They’re already your allies, so make sure they know you’re seeking out grants – they might be connected with foundations that fund work in your field. However, don’t rely too heavily on what you come up with via this route; instead, think of it as more of a gathering of your options, rather than blindly putting energy into a lead simply because it came from a board member.
The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance and Grants (.gov). Remove the spaces and add “.gov” to the end and this URL will take you to a site that allows NPOs to research grants and guidelines – in some cases there’s even the option to apply.
Local grantmakers’ organizations. Chances are, your home city or town has a regional association of grantmakers. Again, consider this a method of looking at the entire menu before making a decision – request a list of their members and grant criteria for each member (if available), then find out if the grantmakers host “meet the funder” events or enable NPOs to make presentations to their organization.
The Foundation Center Online. For a nominal fee, the Center gives you access to their online database of funders. However, if the membership isn’t in your budget, they also work with Regional Foundation Centers, such as the Free Library of Philadelphia, who provide free access to the Online Directory during business hours.
What’s the right grant for your NPO?
Focusing on the types of grants that are best for your specific needs is a crucial step towards funding success. Williams Grant Writing can help you ensure that focal point encompasses all your options, so you can leave the red tape to those with the sharpest scissors. For more advice on finding the best grant for your NPO, reach out today.