From the Offering Plate to Grant Funding


Faith-based organizations frequently tell us, “We are not eligible for grant funding because we are a house of worship (or a religious organization).”

The bad news is they are not wrong – many grantmakers exclude faith-based organizations from award eligibility. However, the good news is that there are more and more grantmakers actually focusing on funding the work faith-based organizations accomplish.

Along with grantmakers who support religious programming, there are a myriad of grantmakers who support faith-based organizations as long as their programs do not only serve the faith community. There are also some government agencies, both state and federal, who will work with faith-based organizations who offer programs that do not discriminate based on religion. The trick is, of course, finding those funding sources that will support your outcomes rather than discount you because of your religious connection.

Using a high-quality database, such as GrantStation, to do your research will cut your research time way down. Having access to a database that allows you to search using specific criteria such as where you are located and the type of services you provide will save you time and focus your attention on the most likely funders to support your work.  

For example, I played around with the GrantStation U.S. Charitable database just to see what kind of results I might get if I were working with a Christian organization looking for support for religious programming. When I selected “Christian” within area of interest, I found that there were 436 grantmakers that included this as a focus area, including 42 that fund nationally and 25 that fund globally. Now that is a very broad search, of course, but it starts to give you an idea of the numbers of grantmakers out there that might fund the work you are doing.

A specific example is The Huston Foundation, which supports Protestant Evangelical Christian grantmaking in both the United States and internationally. The Foundation’s grants range from $2,000 to $50,000, and they fund a wide range of programs:

  • Discipleship, including seminars and conferences, developing nations, and youth discipleship programs.

  • Protestant Evangelical education and schools, including colleges, universities, K-12, cultural preschools, and special education.

  • Protestant Evangelical Christian outreach missions, including abuse, rehabilitation, counseling, education, environmental self-help, family services, legal aid, housing and shelter, literacy, rescue missions, church planting, recreation, substance abuse, and outreach services.

  • Protestant Evangelical civic efforts, including community projects and relations.

  • Protestant Evangelical media and communications, including distribution, translation, publishing, radio, and television and video.

  • Protestant Evangelical medical efforts, including hospitals, clinics, missions, research, and supplies.

  • Protestant Evangelical ministries, including camps, professional athletes, communication, education, hospitals, counseling, neighborhood outreach, prisons, schools and colleges, and college sports.

  • Protestant Evangelism, including crusades, churches, leadership development, missionaries, and youth.

And this is, of course, just one example of a private grantmaker. You also need to be aware of government funding opportunities. If your programs benefit the larger community beyond your church or mission, you may be eligible for program funding at the federal level.

HRSA LogoThe Health Resources and Services Administration actively encourages faith-based and community-based organizations, including small and novice organizations, to apply for grants. This is contrary to the “common knowledge” that only secular, long-established organizations win government awards. And, according to GrantStation’s latest State of Grantseeking Survey results $337,500 is the median award from federal agencies, so there is the possibility of receiving major grant support from the federal government.

In addition, the HHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships “leads the department's efforts to build and support partnerships with faith-based and community organizations in order to better serve individuals, families, and communities in need.”

Within GrantStation’s U.S. Federal database, entering the keyword “faith” brings up 100 opportunities. The Head Start programs specifically state, “Faith-based and community organizations that meet the eligibility requirements are eligible to receive awards under this funding opportunity announcement.”

As many faith-based organizations have an international reach within their programs, a quick search of the International Charitable database found 62 funders with the keyword of “faith.”

For example, the Light A Single Candle Foundation supports faith-based organizations as well as other nonprofit organizations working in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, and Nicaragua. Their grants range from $250 to $80,000, and they are interested in food support, food security, and food sustainability; social entrepreneurship and micro-development; and poverty relief.

In-Kind Gift and Low-Cost Resources

It’s important to take the time to consider how you might leverage donations of products and services. This can often be a good source for matching funds, if they are required for a grant application. Think about your programs – are you called to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, or provide childcare? There are resources that can help you with the tangible goods your programs need. Also, if your organization requires computers, software, and other office-related supplies, there are also resources from which you can acquire those tools at discounted rates.

Good360 says that their organization loves STUFF. They “help nonprofits get the stuff they need so they can spend more of every dollar on programs and services – in other words, helping more people and doing more good.” Good360 has delivered $300 million worth of critical goods to communities around the world.

TechSoup says that “people around the world find the information they need to make smart decisions about technology at their organizations. U.S. organizations often first get to know TechSoup's product donation program, which provides eligible organizations with discounted software, hardware, services, and training, and through our Global Network, organizations outside the U.S. gain similar access to the solutions they need.” TechSoup's catalog includes more than 375 products from over 100 companies like Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, Intuit, and Symantec.

And you can easily research those companies offering product donations using the GrantStation databases. A good way to uncover these potential product donations is to take a good look at your budget and then add brand names to items that you will need to purchase. For example, in your general operating budget for the coming year let’s say you have allocated $900 for purchasing a riding lawn mower and you know your maintenance person wants a Murray Mower. You can do a search to see if the manufacturer has a corporate giving program. In this case, they do not have a giving program, so your next step is to see which retailers carry their brand. That search will bring up Walmart. You can now do a search on Walmart to see if they have a product donations program, and they do! Perhaps you can off-set your general operating budget by $900 by getting this mower donated.

The point is, always consider product donations when you’re doing your research for grant support.

One last note. Keep in mind there are many grantmakers out there that will help fund religious organizations, or programs being offered by a religious organization, so don’t be shy about digging around a bit to see how you can begin to secure your share of the grant support on the market today.

Action steps you can take today