Faith-Based Organizations: Getting Good Grants

Say “AMEN” if you are praying to secure grant dollars for your organization in the upcoming year!
Whether you are an established faith-based non-profit or you are a program operating under a church fiscal sponsor…today’s blog is for you.
 
First and foremost, let me share the good news…
 
No matter what your mission is, there is a donor somewhere in this world who is just as passionate about your cause as you are. You just need to figure out who it is! If you don’t believe me, visit a local library that has “Foundation Center” software and type in keywords into the search bar and matches will magically appear!
 
That being said…your time is valuable, and you don’t want to waste time chasing down donors who are not interested in or willing to support your mission.
 
That brings us to the magic question…
How do I know which grants are worth pursuing and which ones I should leave alone?
 
To determine which grants are a good match for your organization it is important that you follow best practices for grant research and initiate strategic conversations with prospective donors:
 

1.     Clearly define your need/project.

It is imperative to identify as many keywords that describe your project as possible! These keywords will allow you to filter your grant search based on the scope of work, target audience, the total project budget, and even the potential impact. Your grant research process will require you to think outside of the box. If your organization is seeking funds for salaries or website updates you might consider searching for donors that support “capacity building initiatives” or “marketing.” If you provide after-school programs for K-5th graders, you fight to filter your search using keywords like “elementary education, enrichment programs, life skills, college readiness, literacy programming, or even programs for at-risk/high-risk youth.”
 

2.     Identify foundations whose funding priorities align with your proposed project.

Whether you use grant search software, follow leads from press releases
about philanthropy in your field/community, or check out the 990’s of other
organizations that share a similar mission (to see who is giving them dollars) it is
important to create a grant prospect list.
 

3.     Complete due diligence.

Before you ever begin filling out a grant proposal, take the time to read EVERY SINGLE WORD in the donor guidelines! Make sure the answer to each of the following questions is “YES.”
 
Does the donor’s funding priority align with my project/mission?
 
Does the donor fund projects in my geographic location? (Some donors fund nationally, others at a state level, and others limit giving to very specific counties or cities.)
 
Does the donor fund projects that serve my organization’s target population?
 
Does my organization meet all the “eligibility requirements” listed in the grant guidelines?
 
Does the funding cycle align with my proposed project timeline?
 
Does this funder support faith-based organizations and/or projects?
 
That final question is especially crucial for non-profits who have a faith-centered mission or who are operating under a faith-based fiscal sponsor. It is important to note that some donors refuse to fund faith-based organizations period. Others will fund faith-based organization if the proposed project does not promote a specific religion/theology or discriminate against non-believers.
 
For example, the Wells Fargo Foundation’s charitable giving guidelines specifically state that they do not fund “religious organizations, unless they are engaged in programs that are non-sectarian, benefit a broad base of the community, and have a separate 501(c)(3) designation.”
 
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you will find a myriad of foundations that are committed to ONLY funding faith-based organizations! You can increase the likelihood of finding faith-centered donors during your grant research sessions by using religious terms in your filters such as “Christian, Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, Methodist, Non-denominational” …and so on.
 
Most private foundations are established by donors who wish to support causes that align with their core values, personal faith, and social priorities. If a foundation was created by a religious person, it makes sense that they are more willing to fund religious organizations and project.
 
For example, the “The CORR Action Fund (CAF) grant program is established by the General Conference of The United Methodist Church for the empowerment of diversity, inclusion and racial justice work within and outside the Church.”
 
Many grants are specific to denominations and might require that the proposal be submitted through a church. It is always wise to connect with churches in your community that already support your organization to see if they might like to partner on a grant like the one listed above!
 
As always, be sure to speak with a program officer for every foundation you intend to approach for funding PRIOR to beginning the application process to verify that your organization is indeed a good match.
 
We appreciate how hard each of you works to create lasting impact in the community, so we took the time to compile a free list of five national foundations that support faith-based non-profits like yours! 
 
The Mustard Seed Foundation- http://msfdn.org/
Bank of America Charitable Foundation- www.bankofamerica.com/foundation/index.cfm
The Koch Foundation- www.thekochfoundation.org (Catholic Orgs only)
The Chatlos Foundation- www.chatlos.org

About the Author

Amanda Pearce, CFRE

A grant writing expert, executive and development coach, fundraising consultant, and national fundraising trainer, Mandy Pearce, launched Funding for Good, Inc. in 2009 to equip organizations with the skills and tools needed to become successful and sustainable. Mandy has taken her passion and expertise for fundraising to the development field and shared it with individuals and organizations for over 21 years through executive coaching, strategic and development planning, capital campaign planning, seminars, and specialized consulting programs. Mandy’s dynamic teaching style brings thousands of people annually to her presentations at conventions, trainings, and workshops, in person and online. Her business model is centered on her key values: honesty, efficiency, direct communication, and bringing dollars to local communities.

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