A Complete Guide to Grants for Grassroots Organizations


Applying for grants takes time, research, and dedication. Learn how your grassroots organization can get started and find a process that meets your needs.

Your nonprofit brings in revenue from various sources, such as individual donations, event fees, and merchandise sales. You also may have considered a lucrative but often competitive funding source: grants.

If your organization is just starting out, grants might seem like opportunities that only established nonprofits pursue. It’s no secret that grantseeking comes with challenges, especially for groups with limited resources. However, taking the right steps toward building relationships with grantmakers, preparing proposals, and organizing your resources now can bring results well worth your investment.

Once you develop a process that works for your organization, you can secure valuable funds to run your programs and complete projects. As discussed in Grassroots Unwired’s guide to community advocacy, even local-level organizations can mobilize lasting change in communities with the right resources and funding. In this article, we’ll walk through the types of grants your nonprofit could apply for and share some tips on preparing applications.

Understanding Grant Types

The first step in researching what grants your organization should apply for is understanding different grant types. This way, you can target the grants that will be most useful in achieving your goals and that you have a good chance of securing.

Grants can be categorized by their intended use or their source. To help your organization find opportunities, we’ll take the latter approach and look at each funding source in more detail.

Government Grants

As the name implies, government grants are awarded by a government office at the national, state, or local level. For small nonprofits, aiming for a local government grant can familiarize your team with grant application processes and expectations.

The main benefit of government grants is that there are few restrictions on the funds awarded, meaning your organization can put the funding toward whichever project or initiative needs it most. However, these grants are typically the most competitive, and you’ll need to plan ahead to manage their tight application deadlines.

Corporate Grants

For-profit companies sometimes offer grants to nonprofits as part of their corporate social responsibility programs. Corporate grants offer flexibility as some companies will grant heavily discounted services or support for fundraising events rather than money. Because of this, the application process for corporate grants can vary widely.

In addition to traditional grants, some companies whose employees volunteer regularly with a nonprofit can submit a volunteer grant request to earn funding for that nonprofit, according to NXUnite.

Foundation Grants

Most foundation grantmakers view awarding funding as investing in a nonprofit whose mission aligns with their values. Nonprofits can receive grants from public, private, community, or family foundations.

Foundation grants depend heavily on relationship-building. You’ll need to take time to meet with funders and communicate regularly to build trust. Doing so can make it possible for your organization to secure more funding in the future.

Preparing for Applications

It’s tempting to jump into a grant application if an opportunity presents itself. But ensuring your nonprofit is grant ready first will lay the groundwork for every grant you apply for in the future. Consider these three steps as you prepare:

Assess Your Nonprofit

As you begin seeking grants, ask yourself a few questions about your organization:

  • What are our overarching goals?
  • Which initiatives could benefit from grant funding?
  • What is our current capacity?

From here, figure out what grants would meet your needs and which ones you have a chance of securing. Your nonprofit’s age, financial position, and mission will make some grants a better fit than others.

Invest in the Right Tools

Next, look into adding a grant management platform to your nonprofit’s tech stack. Ensure your grant management platform has these key features:

  • report customization capabilities, so you can meet each funder’s reporting requirements;
  • a grant calendar to manage multiple deadlines; and,
  • project management tools to coordinate schedules and internal communications.

It’s also useful to have grant management software that can organize and analyze data from a variety of sources, such as your CRM, event management platform, and advocacy software solution, that you may need to include in your reports. Research your options and choose one that meets your needs without going over budget.

Write a Strong Proposal

How well you write your grant proposal will determine whether you secure funding. Each funder will have different requirements, but the standard grant proposal outline includes:

  • Organizational history. This section should explain your nonprofit’s mission and highlight past successes to show the funder that your organization is reliable.
  • Needs assessment. Here, you’ll explain the problem your organization will use the funding to solve.
  • Implementation plan. Detail how you plan to solve the problem you outlined through a specific program or project, along with a proposed timeline and evaluation criteria.
  • Budget. Lastly, you’ll outline exactly how you’ll use the grant funding and what other revenue sources (such as giving campaigns, major donations, or fundraising events) will supplement the grant to make your initiative succeed.

Be ready to revise your proposal multiple times and get feedback from several staff members. Start the writing process early to ensure you can submit your proposal by the deadline.

Action steps you can take today
  • Assess your nonprofit to determine what types of grants to target.
  • Create a running list of grant possibilities.
  • Start developing a plan for writing proposals and managing grants.