Grants for non-profit organizations are as varied and numerous as non-profits themselves.
In order to appreciate the diversity of non-profit organizations, and the non-profit grants made available to them, it is important to understand what a non-profit is versus what it is not. All non-profit corporations are granted this status by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). While states provide statutes that govern non-profit organizations with the state the non-profit is incorporated, the IRS is the overall oversight agency with rules and regulations that non-profits must follow in order to retain their status.
A non-profit designation is determined by the IRS. Most non-profits that receive grants are public charities. Private foundations and private operating foundations, while having 501(c)3 designations as do public charities, are subject to different tax laws, and support derives from only a few sources or only one. Foundations, generally, provide financial support to public charities, and as those they support, are geared to the public good.
Public charities have a wide range of grants available to fund their missions. Funding is derived at all levels of the government: federal, state, county, city, and local government entities, as well as foundations. At all levels, however, there are requirements, and eligibility rules that determine who or what might apply.
At the federal level, the public charity needs to register with Grants.gov, the clearinghouse that lists all federal grant announcements. Public charities that address issues of homelessness, and either engage in transitional or affordable housing projects, for example, often receive significant funding through Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Make no mistake: Most federal grants are highly competitive, and require a high degree of competency in the field that the funding is being offered. The federal grant application process is a daunting experience, especially for first-time seeking such non-profits grants. The Technical Narrative requires an expertise that allows for the development of a comprehensive and compelling argument that clearly states the need for the funding. Project Management and Outcomes must be straightforward and understandable to those reading the grant application: sustainability is a singularly important issue with clear descriptions that cover the concerns outlined by the federal grant opportunity.
States offer grants to non-profits. Here, too, the public charity is often involved in addressing housing, education, drug/alcohol rehabilitation, crime prevention, community development, after school programs, and a host of other social issues that require redress. Some state grants are actually funded by the federal government, redirected by the state, to the county or city levels, and then re-distributed to selected public charities.
Foundations, perhaps, are the most important funding source for public charities. Foundations do have requirements and stipulations as to what they fund, and what they do not. It is imperative, therefore, to review these requirements prior to any grant submission.
For the public charity, foundations and governmental agencies offer unique grant opportunities. The well-organized public charity should conduct research at all levels to secure the support the non-profit needs to fulfill its mission.