Although not as common as grants in other areas, small-church grants are available, even for churches with congregations fewer than 100 people. Understanding your church’s needs and creatively exploring resources can open the door for grant funding in many areas.
Communicating your needs to individuals and organizations can help to connect you with possible funding resources, as granters sometimes do not accept applications but instead seek out grant recipients.
Before searching for possible grants, consider what exactly the grant needs to cover. Does your small church need to construct a building or to make repairs to a current structure? Does the church need assistance establishing a communication strategy or with creating a community outreach program? Does the congregation’s pastor or priest need a sabbatical, or perhaps more support with administrative duties? Clearly identifying the church’s need helps with locating the best possible resources for grants. Most granters, such as the Duke Endowment, target specific needs. The endowment funds food and elder ministries, and child care and housing programs.
Consider funding options outside the most obvious need areas. For example, perhaps your small church is heavily involved in community service, such as feeding the homeless and providing transportation services, and you are looking for a small grant that could help offset the costs of these programs. However, your church may qualify for grants in other areas as well, such as grants for developing a children’s ministry or for purchasing multimedia equipment. Many granters provide funds to meet a variety of needs.
Ask other local churches or denominational leaders about possible granters, and if your small church is affiliated with a specific denomination, contact the main offices. Many denominations have funding set aside to help support small congregations. If your congregation is housed in a historic building, the church may qualify for a historic-preservation grant through the federal government. Some private organizations provide historic preservation funds to churches. Your small church may qualify for other private grants as well, such as those offered by the Oldham Little Church Foundation or the Frank E. Clark Charitable Trust, both of which specifically target small churches.
Granters often require potential recipients complete a detailed application process. For many granters, you need to demonstrate what your church needs through clear description and documentation. You need to identify a total amount for the requested grant, as well as a projected plan or budget for the use of the grant funds. Often, a granter will want to know the timeline you will follow in using the grant, and the methods you will use to evaluate the outcome of the grant.
Your church needs to have demonstrable ways to measure the outcomes of grant funding. Once a grant has been received, a small church needs to show to the granting institution that the funds have been used ethically, and in accordance with the grant stipulations and guidelines. Having a clear timeline for the dissemination of grant funds as well as clear objectives for the use of those funds can help you fulfill your responsibility to the granter. Often, a granter will want to see periodic and final reports on the use of grant funds.