501(c)3 organizations, also known as non-profits, often depend on grants for funding. Grants come in all shapes and sizes, from family foundations that fund specific, locally based projects to large, multinational funders that support a wide variety of non-profits. As a grant seeker, you can find available funding opportunities by using the many grant resources available online. When applying for funds, careful research is the key to success. Make sure you learn as much as you can about the granting organization, and tailor your application to the specific guidelines the grantor provides.
A foundation is a non-governmental organization that functions as a charitable institution. Foundations exist to provide funding for other organizations, such as non-profit agencies, educational institutions, religious and cultural organizations, scientific research groups and policy concerns. There are three types of foundation: private, corporate and community. Private foundations range from small family foundations funded by one donor to independent, board-operated foundations. Corporate foundations obtain their funds from a for-profit sponsor and are usually governed by a board of directors from the sponsoring company. Public foundations can be funded by other foundations, by donations from individuals or businesses or by the government. Most foundations have specific guidelines that regulate which organizations they support; when applying for a grant, it's important to individualize each application and always keep in mind what the foundation seeks to accomplish with its funds. One good place to start looking is foundationcenter.org, which lists foundations and the types of grants they offer.
Corporate grants are distributed directly, rather than through a corporate foundation. Some businesses may donate money, and some may donate materials or training. Like foundation grants, most corporate grants have specific guidelines that determine which 501(c)3 organizations they will fund. For example, a software company might focus on funding non-profits that promote computer technology in schools, or a sporting goods company might support organizations that help the environment. Many companies choose to focus charitable spending in regions where their businesses are located. United Way can be a helpful resource; check with your local office to determine which companies in your area have charitable giving programs.
Federal and state government grants are a great source of funding for 501(c)3s. There are 26 grant-making federal agencies, such as the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Environmental Protection Agency. All of these agencies' grant opportunities are accessible online at Grants.gov, a site offering a comprehensive, searchable database with hundreds of funding opportunities, most of which you can also apply for online. State governments also offer grants; search your state's website for funding opportunities.
- writing image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com