by Paul Diaz, Vice President Policy, Public Interest Registry
The first article in our series about grants touched on the basics. In this piece, we’ll offer some helpful tips in determining grant eligibility. Here’s an inspiring fact: In the 2019 fiscal year alone, U.S. Federal, state, and local governments provided $750 billion in grants, according to The Federation of American Scientists. That doesn’t include grants given by foundations or other sources, such as educational institutions.
In addition, if your non-profit is based outside the United States, it’s best to research your government’s specific requirements.
Researching your eligibility for a particular grant isn’t always an easy task. So we have a simple way to help remember how to approach it—just spell the word “GRANT”.
Get to Know YOU
Determining your eligibility starts with understanding your non-profit brand. Having a clearly defined mission and purpose is useful when assessing whether a specific grant is a good fit with your .ORG’s specific area of expertise. According to this article on www.donorbox.org: “As a non-profit organization, you only want to work with and be associated with organizations whose mission and values are aligned with yours. If not, you’re risking your reputation and might end up losing donors and supporters.”
That’s why it’s essential to ask, “Who are you?” before you embark on finding a grant that suits your organization. Once you have a firm grip on your mission-based organization’s identity, you’re ready for the next step: Research.
Research Your Opportunities
There are government and foundation grants just for you. Really. It just requires time and effort to track them down. That’s why Research is an important step in determining grant eligibility. Grants.gov offers a one-stop search shop for federal U.S. grants. According to this article on www.nonprofithub.org, “Not only is grants.gov a place to find grants, but it’s also a place to educate yourself on how grants work and what they’re all about.” U.S. State and local governments often list grants on their websites. For foundation grants, an Internet search can be a fruitful (and free) place to start. You can type in “grants for,” along with your type of organization and location, to see if it yields promising results. Google also offers its own grants, which you can learn about here. The National Council of Nonprofits provides a variety of grant search resources as well, while the Foundation Directory Online allows you to access more than 22 million grants (for a fee). Once you’ve tracked down opportunities that fit your needs, it’s time to…
Federal U.S. grants, as well as many foundation grants, often require each applicant to be registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. However, if you’re just starting out, you may be eligible for a seed grant. A seed grant is funding that foundations offer to new non-profits, or non-profits starting new programs, with missions similar to their own. Here is one example of this type of grant from A Seed of Change.
Many U.S. foundations fund organizations with international reach. Here is an example of a foundation that funds projects solely in rural India and here is information about opportunities in Africa from the resource, Funds for NGOs.
For federal U.S. grants, Grants.gov’s learning center includes an article on eligibility to get you started. Their search tool is an important asset as well, allowing you to search by “eligibility” as a criteria. It doesn’t mean you’ll be eligible for every opportunity that pops up, but it can be a helpful way to narrow the scope. To receive a grant of any kind, you must meet very specific requirements. Which leads us to…
Note the Requirements
Once you’ve compiled a list of potential grants, thoroughly review each one. According to this piece on Donorbox, “It’s better to spend some time carefully reviewing the grant requirements before applying to make sure you can meet all the stipulations than to find yourself in an uncomfortable situation later on.” Requirements can vary between countries, and differ greatly between federal and foundation grants. In addition, grants might require an organization to be based in a specific location, be either religious or secular, or support a particular population. Some can be highly specialized, too. Here and here are a few examples of grants with highly specific requirements. Many of these grants can be a perfect fit for the right organization. And when you find a grant that’s a great fit, you need to move to the last step and Tee Up a Grant Writer.
Tee Up a Grant Writer
When you’ve determined your eligibility for a grant, you’ll need an experienced grant writer to complete the process. We’ll go further in-depth on grant writing and the value of using an experienced grant writer in a future article, but for now, The Blue Heart Foundation offers insights on what to look for in a grant writer. According to this piece, they should be able to:
- Scour lists of grants and identify those which align with the organization’s goals and objectives, while eliminating those that aren’t a good match.
- Craft a grant proposal that uses clear, concise language to persuade the grantor that the organization applying for the grant is a worthy recipient of funds.
- Respond to funder’s questions about the grant proposal and develop relationships with prospective donors.
Successfully navigating the process of determining grant eligibility can be a challenge. But it’s a necessary step in finding the right one that can provide meaningful financial support for your .ORG. We’ll have more on grants coming up in our continuing series, so stay tuned!