Unlocking Grant Funding

A Comprehensive Guide for Nonprofit Organizations

By Tracy Lee Thomas

In the realm of nonprofit organizations, financial resources are a fundamental necessity. These resources serve as the lifeblood that empowers us to pursue our missions and effectuate tangible, positive change.

Nonprofits are endowed with an array of funding channels, each contributing to their financial sustainability. These channels encompass individual donations, crowdfunding campaigns, corporate sponsorships, membership fees, and grants. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deeper into the realm of grants: we will explore whether they are the right choice for your organization and how to uncover them.

Understanding Grants for Nonprofits

Grants, in essence, are monetary awards bestowed upon nonprofit organizations to support specific programs or purposes. Grantors often allocate funding according to distinct criteria:

Specific Target Population

Some grants are tailored to serve demographics, such as children or organizations located within specific geographic regions of a city, state or nationally.

Nonprofit Type

Other grants are exclusive to specific types of nonprofit entities, such as animal shelters or environmental groups.

Support Type

Grants come in various forms, including operating support (which offers unrestricted funding for daily expenses), capital support (designed for capital campaigns, construction, or property acquisition), and program development (which provides funding for specific projects).

Grants can significantly benefit nonprofit organizations, enabling them to undertake substantial projects that might otherwise be financially out of reach. Moreover, securing one grant can enhance your organization's credibility, rendering it more appealing to potential funders.

The Pros and Cons of Grants for Nonprofits

While grants offer an array of benefits, they also come with certain caveats.

On the positive side…

  • Grants have the potential to fuel substantial projects, empowering nonprofits to generate significant societal impact.
  • Securing one grant can open doors to additional funding opportunities, as it signifies your organization's credibility and effectiveness, and it builds relationships.

Nonetheless, there are certain drawbacks to consider…

  • Grants can be time-consuming, necessitating the development of grant-writing skills and the creation of compelling proposals.
  • Grants typically come with conditions dictating how the funds can be utilized, including specific program outputs or outcomes.
  • Reporting requirements are often attached to grants, demanding additional time and effort from your organization's staff.

Before deciding to embark on a quest for grants, it's prudent to engage in thorough discussions with your team, addressing key questions:

  • Do we possess the requisite resources to craft a winning grant applications?
  • Can we meet the conditions stipulated by potential grants?
  • Do our proposed activities align with our mission, goals, and overarching strategy?
  • Can we sustain the funded activity after the grant funding concludes?
  • Why do we need this particular grant to continue our work?
  • Do we have the qualified staff to implement the program effectively?
  • Do we possess measurable outcomes related to our past endeavors? How successful have those outcomes been?

Additionally, grant-seeking should harmonize seamlessly with your organization's overall strategic plan, serving as a deliberate and intentional component of your mission.

It's imperative to recognize that, as of 2022, individual donors contributed a substantial 64% of nonprofit funding, whereas foundations contributed 21%, and corporations supplied 6%. This underscores the importance of balancing grant-seeking efforts with other fundraising avenues.

Quick Tips for Grants for Nonprofits

  1. Alignment

    Ensure that your mission and values align with those of potential grantmaking organizations to safeguard your organization's reputation.

  1. Start Small and Local

    Consider launching your grant-seeking journey with small, local grants to build expertise and credibility before pursuing larger grants.

  1. Budget

    Ascertain the precise amount required for your project and create a detailed budget to support your grant application.

  1. Benchmark

    Investigate other organizations like yours to identify potential grant opportunities and potential partners for joint funding.

  1. Review Requirements

    Thoroughly examine grant requirements to ensure your organization can meet all stipulations before applying.

  1. Be Prepared

    Keep your strategic plans, mission statement, tax forms, and other essential documents readily accessible, transparency is key. Adhere strictly to application deadlines and guidelines.

  1. Demonstrate Impact

    Develop the capacity to measure and report on the impact of your programs, as many grantors require concrete evidence of your organization's impact.

  1. Build Relationships

    Foster relationships with Grantmakers, foundation staff, and potential supporters to enhance your chances of success.

Where to Find Grants for Nonprofits


    If you operate within the United States, provides access to government grant opportunities.

  1. Candid's Foundation Directory

    This resource offers information on grants from private foundations, corporate foundations, and other nonprofits.

  1. offers tech grants for nonprofits that align with their missions and projects.

  1. Google Ad Grants

    This program offers $10,000 per month in online advertising to eligible nonprofits.

  1. is a search engine that identifies grants suitable for universities, hospitals, government agencies, schools, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, research institutions, and some small businesses and individuals. They categorize grants into specific areas to help your organization find the best fit.

  1. Local/State Funding

    Depending on your organization's location, it can be beneficial to explore grants at the municipal or state level. Reach out to relevant local or state departments and browse their websites for potential grants that align with your mission. Be sure to inquire with departments such as the Department of Health, Jobs and Family Services, Human Services, Department of Development, Small Business Development, Department of Education, Department of Transportation, or City Councils. Select the department that most closely aligns with your mission for the best results.

  1. Search Engines

    Sometimes, conducting a keyword-based search on search engines can help you identify relevant grants for nonprofits. To make your search more effective, compile a list of 10-20 keywords that describe your organization's work and needs. These criteria can include keywords, subject matter, geographic area, target audience, gender, race, ethnicity, and any other parameters that align with your nonprofit's mission.

  1. GuideStar

    Utilize GuideStar to access information about foundations and evaluate their alignment with your organization's goals. GuideStar profiles can provide insights into a foundation's mission and interests, helping you determine if they are a suitable match.

  1. Board Members

    Leverage your board members' connections and seek introductions to potential funders. Additionally, consult your board members to determine if they are aware of any family foundations, corporate foundations, or other grantmaking entities that might be interested in supporting your nonprofit. Ask if they would be willing to facilitate introductions. Their employers might also serve as potential sources of financial support.

  1. Networking and Professional Organizations

    Engage with peers in the nonprofit sector and consider joining professional organizations. Networking within these circles can lead to valuable insights and grant opportunities. Attend conferences, initiate conversations with program officers at foundations, discuss your projects and their alignment with potential funders, and connect with foundations on social media platforms. If your grant application is rejected, take the opportunity to solicit feedback and inquire if there are alternative funding sources they can recommend. Always strive to maintain positive relationships with potential funders and never burn bridges.

Additional Resources for Finding Grants for Nonprofits

  • The Grantsmanship Center
  • Community Foundation Locator
  • The Chronicle of Philanthropy
  • GrantStation
  • Instrumentl
  • CNE (Center for Nonprofit Excellence
  • Nonprofit Expert
  • Grantsplus Grants Opportunities

In your pursuit of grants, bear in mind that this is not a one-time endeavor but rather an ongoing commitment. Successful nonprofits dedicate themselves to establishing a robust grants program. They continuously research available grants, gain expertise in grant writing, and consistently submit grant applications. Remember that persistence often yields results, and sometimes, all it takes is one "yes" to make all your efforts worthwhile.

In the world of nonprofit organizations, the journey toward securing grants is not merely a transaction but a strategic roadmap. It's about forging meaningful connections, aligning missions, and demonstrating the impact that your organization can make. While the path may be challenging, the rewards of winning grants are immense. By crafting a well-defined grant roadmap and implementing thoughtful strategies, you're not only opening doors to financial support but also laying the foundation for lasting change. Remember, persistence and preparation are your allies on this journey. Embrace the lessons learned along the way, for they will shape your organization's growth and amplify your impact. With each grant application, you are one step closer to realizing your mission and creating a brighter future for those you serve.