Many visitors to this website are looking for practical guidance in searching for grant assistance. Although the mission of FADICA is to serve the educational needs of its foundation members, the organization does publish the Catholic Funding Guide which provides practical help for those in search of funding help. The Guide may be ordered at this website.
As the grant search is undertaken here are some basic things to keep in mind.
General vs. Project Specific Grants
Foundations and other grant making organizations make different kinds of grants. Some are general support grants for the operations of the organization. The vast majority of grants are project specific. Funds awarded for these activities are restricted for these projects only. A few foundations make emergency grants to allow an organization to respond to an immediate crisis as in the case of Hurricane Katrina, for example. Some foundations offer seed money to launch an initiative, and they expect to see many other donors participating in bringing the project to life. Capital grants usually finance the construction or repair of a building of underwrite the purchase of land. A few foundations provide grants for endowments - usually undertaken to provide long range stability for the institution. Greater use is being made of challenge grants where the grantee may be required to match specified dollar amounts with donations from others. A number of foundations make program related investments enabling an applicant organization to obtain low interest loans and loan guarantees especially important, for example, for anti-poverty projects like housing and micro enterprise development. It is good to keep in mind that almost no grant makers provide funding for deficit financing or after the particular event or activity has been completed.
The Preliminary Inquiry
While application requirements vary from grant maker to grant maker, usually a preliminary inquiry is made by letter by the grant seeker. Since many foundations restrict their giving to pre-selected organizations, verifying this will save time and frustration. Checking the foundation’s Federal 990 tax form will show if indeed the foundation does entertain applications for assistance. This can be done by utilizing the Foundation Center website. Once an applicant has been invited to do so, a fuller application is then made. Some foundations have their own application form but many do not.
Elements of the Basic Application
Basic applications often require the following elements:
- A cover letter describing the project and why the particular agency contacted seems to be an appropriate funder
- A detailed budget for the project, the problem or need being addressed, and the intended outcome
- How and when the organization will go about it, and
- Background on the key individuals involved.
Basic information on the applicant organization includes such items as a brief history, mission, key staff, board members and the organization’s financial situation. Many grant makers require a copy of the latest audit by an independent accountant as well as a copy of the IRS determination letter confirming the organization’s nonprofit status as a 501(c)(3) entity. It is always a good idea to tell the funder of other pending applications before other donor agencies, as well as any grants received to date. Some foundations require a letter from the bishop or religious superior.
What You May Be Asked
From the foundation side you can expect that questions like these will be asked by its trustees before making a decision:
- Does the need addressed in the grant relate to its grant making history?
- Is the geographical location of the applicant within the foundation’s scope of interest?
- Does the amount of money requested fit within the grant range of the foundation?
- Is the type of support, e.g. endowment, capital – within the guidelines of the foundation?
- Is the grant request respectful of the foundation’s deadlines?
- Is the application complete?
- Is the requesting organization, eg. a school or parish, the kind of entity that falls within the foundation’s grant history?
These and other questions necessitate that grant seekers do as much research as possible to find the appropriate source of help.
Accountability to Your Donors
Finally, one very important piece of advice. Good development work involves excellent communication and a sense of accountability. In justice a donor’s intentions must be honored scrupulously. Donors should be kept informed on a regular basis on the use of their grants. Many foundations are utilizing formal grant agreements which often require a written report of the grant expenditures.
Philanthropy welcomes the religious grant seeker who is willing to help the Catholic community carry out its important mission. Forming a partnership with grant makers requires thoughtful research, care and a strong sense of stewardship. Those who prepared to invest a modest amount of time will find that their development task is not as difficult as they may have thought.