By Lee Gagen, Fundraising and Development Specialist
Grant writing is often thought of as a long and laborious process; one that doesn’t guarantee the desired results. For some, this is enough to discourage them from taking the steps necessary to secure grant funding. Others find the limited number of religious based funders as the number one obstacle. However, I am here to encourage you to take a chance! Once you get that first grant completed, subsequent proposals are far less time-consuming, you start to become familiar with funders and what they are looking for, and you have the experience in searching for grants!
Searching for a Grant
The number one tool for grant searching is the Foundation Center. The Foundation Center includes databases, directories, fundraising and philanthropy publications, and training resources. This is a paid resource, however, there are a couple of ways to access the information for free. Normally, there are locations (most libraries) that are members of the Funding Information Network that will allow you to access the database for free while you are connected to the library’s wifi network. At the moment, because of COVID-19, Candid – formerly the Foundation Center – is providing temporary, remote access to Foundation Directory Online Essential. Simply find your closest location and connect through their website. For example, I use the Morse Institute in Natick, MA https://morseinstitute.org/services/foundation-center/
Once you are at the directory, the next step is narrowing down the available grants to one that fits both your organization/church and your project. I recommend using the advanced search feature. This will allow you to search by subject area, geographic focus, population served, organization name, location, and who’s who. There is another drop-down for “additional filters” which will include options for support strategy, transaction type, organization type, grant amount, years, keyword, and EIN.
Because the number of grants available to religious organizations are limited, I try to make my search as broad as possible. For example, if I wanted to find funding for a Massachusetts church’s food pantry, I’d only fill in 3 search fields:
- Subject Area: Basic and emergency aid
- Geographic Focus: Massachusetts
- Keyword: Christian
The search resulted in 16 Grantmakers. The next step would be to click on each to learn a bit more about the funder. The database is very detailed and will include information including what is being funded, where the money is going, and how big the grants are. You are also able to see things like geographic focus, support strategies, and organization types. What I find especially helpful is the Applications/RFPs section. Here you will see what is required for submitting an application and what grants are currently available.
After looking through the results, I recommend making a list of funders who may possibly make a grant to my organization. If they are not currently accepting applications, I check on them every few months or so to see if they are offering anything new. I also suggest signing up for communications so that you are alerted when grants are available.
If I am lucky enough to find a funder accepting applications whose mission seems to align with that of my project…then it is time to start preparing my application!