Before you begin your search for grant applications it should be noted, first and foremost, that all grant applications are free grant applications. Foundations exist to fund projects. Foundations actually want to give you their money.
Where to Find Funding
The first step in applying for grant funding for a nonprofit is to identify grant programs that may be a good fit for your organization. There are many places to look for funding programs, and the opportunities that are available to you will depend greatly on the the nonprofit's mission and where it is located.
The Grants.gov website provides a searchable database of grant programs available through various federal government agencies. You can search by agency or by category, which makes it easy to quickly search for funding opportunities that are consistent with the mission of your organization. Once you become a registered user, you can apply for free grants online and track the status of the requests you submit via the site.
Apply for a grant you find on Grants.gov through their application on their website. Note that you'll have to download the application and fill it out offline, but you can submit it online after you register. The application comes with step by step directions.
Government Agency Websites
In addition to posting funding opportunities in the Grants.gov database, individual government agencies often post requests for proposals on their websites. There may be some duplication between what you find on agency sites and what is published on Grants.gov, but you may also find programs published in one place that are not listed on the other.
A few examples are:
To identify programs available through other agencies, do an Internet search for the title of the agency you are interested in paired with the word "grants." This will likely lead you to a web page where current available opportunities are published.
Council on Foundations
It's likely that there is a community foundation in your area that oversees a number of grant making programs. Check local listings in your area, or search the online locator on the Council on Foundations to look for foundations by region.
Additionally, if you feel that foundations are likely to provide an excellent resource for funding for your organization, you may want to consider subscribing to The Foundation Center's Foundation Directory Online. Access to the directory is fee based, with monthly plans starting as low as $19.95 per month. If you choose to subscribe, you'll have access to a database of 10,000 of the top United States-based foundations.
The directory is an excellent resource for researching grant opportunities available from foundations. It includes indexed profiles with current information about the funders and allows users to run and export searches based on specific criteria, including geographic location and congressional district.
The Foundation Center's headquarters are in New York City with field offices in Cleveland, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. If you can visit an office in one of those cities you will find:
- Information on hundreds of foundations
- Workshops for grant writers and for those seeking money
- Grant applications and guidelines
- Helpful staff to answer any question you have
- Records of past grants made by various foundations
If the organization you work with has an arts-oriented mission, grant opportunities may be available from the National Endowment for the Arts.
In addition, you may find funding opportunities through local state agencies. To find state agencies that may have funds to offer support to arts projects, visit the National Assembly of State Art Agency websites. While NASAA does not give grants to individuals, they do list state agencies that have funding support.
Successfully Applying for Grants
Getting grant money is about matching your organization's mission with a grant maker's mission. According to an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, many proposals are rejected simply because the proposal doesn't match a company's initiatives. However, assuming that your mission matches the mission of where you're seeking a grant, there are a few hints that can help in your funding endeavors.
Gather Your Information
Before you even start applying for grants, gather your information. While you may apply somewhere that requires additional information, the following is fairly standard to all grant making agencies.
- Copy of tax status from the Internal Revenue Service
- Audited tax records from the previous year
- Brief description of your organization, its mission and the goal of the project
- Specific funding request which will include a line item budget for the project
- A detailed description of how the money will be used
- A description and bio of the key staff members running the project
In some cases the foundation may make specific requests such as a media presentation of your program or program brochures.
The Common Grant Form
Obtain a copy of the common grant form your grant maker uses. The idea is that you fill out one common application and submit it to multiple grant making foundations. A common application form can simplify the process when you are looking for funding.
Once you put it together, you can submit it to any foundation that accepts the common form, thus streamlining your funding search. However, you do need to do your homework and research the foundation to which you are applying for funds. Make sure that the foundation accepts the common form you have put together.
Tips on Applying for a Grant
- It's important to remember that any company or person who asks you to pay for a grant application is a scam. All grant applications are free because foundations exist to give you money.
- Make sure to read and follow the directions that the grant maker offers. Even if they accept the common form, make sure and follow any special directions given.
- It's helpful to put together a general file folder for grant applications. It should contain tax information, your organization's mission and vision statements and any statistics that would be helpful in demonstrating your organization's relevance to the community at large.
- Read carefully about what the foundation is interested in funding. Make sure that your organization is a good match for their funding priorities.
Diligence Is Usually Rewarded
If at first you don't succeed: try, try and try again. Don't be discouraged if you're turned down. There are hundreds of foundations that are looking for projects to fund - it's only a matter of finding the right opportunity for you.