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A couple of years ago, outreach, training, and fundraising consultant, Stephanie Gerding, posted some great basic grantseeking information on TechSoup For Libraries. As a former nonprofit development director, I know I could have used some short useful basic information on the steps to grantseeking to get things going quickly, so I thought I’d alert you to Stephanie’s wisdom. Find the first installment of this series, Developing a Grant Project here.
Finding the right funders that match your mission, your specific project, and your geographic locale is quite an art. As Stephanie Gerding mentions in her piece, “there is not one directory, website or database that will neatly list all the grants that match your specific project.” That’s a shame, but most grantmaking information is available somewhere on the web.
Stepanie’s first tip is to start with local funders who often give smaller grants and also tend to have fewer strings attached than those from larger private or especially government agencies that have high administrative overhead. I’ve also found over the years that a small local grant can leverage larger grants. That was the case when I was getting TechSoup’s Refurbished Computer Initiative going. Also Stephanie points out that “several small grants that in combination could provide for all the facets of a larger project.” I’d agree, but the reporting overhead on multiple small grants is likely to be much more than on a single grant. Getting the first seed money in on a project is crucial, however.
When trolling for grant opportunities, Stephanie says that “a good match occurs when you can find aligned purposes; your organization’s mission and the goals of your grant projects complement those of the funding organizations.” I think it took me a while to really get how deeply essential that small truism is. Funders are looking for charities interested and able to do the work they need done, and charities are looking for funders for their work. It’s all about making the match. The problem is that, as in love, a perfect match is rare. If there is compromising to do in regard to alignment, it’s my experience that the grantseeker must be the more accommodating party. As in the German legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, "he who pays the piper calls the tune."
On the practical art of finding government funder prospects I’ll let Stephanie take it from here:
Government grants can come from all levels of government - federal, state, or local (county, city, town, village).
The federal government is the largest funder in the United States. Though there are billions of grant dollars available, these can be tough applications to tackle for those new to grant work, so you might want to begin with a smaller grant from a local government, foundation, or club in your service area. Grants.gov is the single free access point for over 1,000 grant programs offered by the 26 federal grant-making agencies. All federal grant opportunities are searchable. Under "Find Grant Opportunities," use the Basic Search with the keywords applicable to your organization and project or Browse by Category under Arts, Humanities, Education (or whichever best matches your grant project or emphasis). You can sign up for an email service or RSS feed that will notify you of new grant opportunities and specify criteria such as category of funding, eligibility, or agency.
Other federal funding resources include: Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, Federal Register, and the TGCI Federal Register Grant Announcements. You can also visit the websites of the federal agencies directly, such as:
• US Department of Education• National Library of Medicine• National Endowment for the Arts• Institute of Museum and Library Services• National Endowment for the Humanities• Corporation for National and Community Service
State departments of education, state humanities, state arts and cultural services agencies are all examples of state agencies that may fund your project and have RFPs or grant opportunities available on a competitive or non-competitive basis:
• Your State Department of Education• Your State Humanities Council• Your State Arts Council
Local governments that have acquired their own grants from federal or state governments may contract with other organizations such as yours to perform part of the work on their grant project. State-specific or community-specific funding directories or databases for your area will contain these local opportunities you will not find in the national directories. Check your local community foundations, United Way, and libraries for these resources. The Council of Foundation's website contains many of these listings. There is also a government office that regulates charities in each state that may be named the Charities Registrar, under the Secretary of State's office or the Department of Justice, they may have publications and guides on your state funders.
TechSoup offers a wide variety of fundraising tools through its donation programs. From developing your own online store to taking donations from your phone, TechSoup has you covered.
For more information on this, check out our Fundraising: The Tech Tools You Need.