Business grants are a great way to finance the growth of your nonprofit organization. Unlike small-business loans, these grants provide free access to capital that doesn’t need to be repaid.
However, finding and qualifying for a nonprofit grant can be difficult. You’ll likely face strong competition from other organizations and have to complete time-consuming applications. Plus, nonprofits are often excluded from well-known business grant programs, such as the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest.
Nevertheless, the time and effort may be worth it if you can secure free funding for your nonprofit. Start your search with these options from federal and state governments, charitable foundations and private companies.
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What are grants for nonprofits?
A nonprofit grant is a sum of money awarded to a nonprofit organization that doesn’t need to be repaid. Grants for nonprofits are typically distributed by government agencies, corporations or foundations.
Unlike standard small-business grants, nonprofit grants are often restricted. With a restricted grant, the awarding organization defines how it wants the money to be used, such as to fund research or support a particular project.
Some organizations may also require that your nonprofit meet certain conditions (e.g., following specific reporting procedures) before you can gain access to your funds.
Unrestricted nonprofit grants, on the other hand, allow you to use your grant money as you see fit. These grants offer ideal flexibility, but they can be more difficult to find.
Government grants for nonprofits
Nonprofits can receive grants from the government at the federal, state and local level. Here are some options to consider.
Grants.gov is a database of federally sponsored grants operated and maintained by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. You can use this database to browse grants issued by over 25 government agencies — and you can even filter specifically for nonprofit funding opportunities.
To get one of these nonprofit grants, you must create an account with Grants.gov, and complete and submit an application. These federal grants tend to have unique qualification requirements, so you’ll want to read through all of the information and confirm you’re eligible before applying.
2. Economic Development Administration
The Economic Development Administration provides grant resources and houses the Economic Development Directory to help you search for funding opportunities in your state or city.
In New York, for example, you can browse available nonprofit and small-business grants through the Economic Development District website that services your location (e.g., central New York, Hudson Valley, Capital District).
3. Grant databases
You can also use grant databases, like GrantWatch and GrantFinder, to identify federal, state and local opportunities for your nonprofit organization. These types of databases allow you to search and apply for grants all in one place. However, some options require a paid subscription to access everything its platform has to offer.
Foundation grants for nonprofits
Foundations are nonprofit organizations that provide funding to other nonprofits. These organizations can be established by corporations, individuals or families, like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
4. Carnegie Corporation
The Carnegie Corporation offers nonprofit grants in four program areas: education; democracy; international peace and security; and higher education and research in Africa. The corporation does not typically provide general support or unrestricted nonprofit grants.
You must meet the eligibility criteria based on one of the four programs and use the money to fund a qualifying project.
To apply for one of these nonprofit grants, you’ll submit a letter of inquiry using the organization’s online portal. If your letter of inquiry is approved, you’ll be invited to submit a full proposal. The process usually takes four to six weeks.
5. Ford Foundation
The Ford Foundation issues grants to nonprofit organizations that are focused on addressing issues of inequality. These offerings are based on nine program areas, including creativity and free expression; national resources and climate change; and gender, racial and ethnic justice.
You can find current projects that are accepting applications on the foundation’s website and apply based on the instructions for that specific grant.
6. Coca‑Cola Foundation
The Coca-Cola Foundation offers community grants for nonprofits to support initiatives like clean water, women’s empowerment, recycling and disaster preparedness.
To access one of these funding opportunities, you must first complete an eligibility quiz. If you’re eligible, you can register for the foundation’s online application system. Through this system, you’ll be able to browse and apply for available grants.
7. Walmart Foundation
The Walmart Foundation provides nonprofit grants quarterly through local Walmart and Sam’s Club facilities. These grants range in amounts from $250 to $5,000 and are awarded to local nonprofit organizations to fund projects in their communities.
You can apply for a grant in eight funding areas, including community and economic development; diversity and inclusion; education; and public safety, among others. To get started, you’ll answer an eligibility questionnaire and if you qualify, you’ll be directed to create an account on CyberGrants FrontDoor.
Once you’ve been verified on the CyberGrants platform, you can submit your grant application. The Walmart Foundation allows you to submit a maximum of 25 applications during each yearly grant cycle.
Corporate grants for nonprofits
Many corporations and large companies, like Google and Amazon, issue grants for nonprofits. These programs may offer general financial support, fund individual projects or provide free access to nonprofit tools and services.
8. Amazon Web Services (AWS) Imagine Grant
The first grant — the Go Further, Faster Award — is given to innovative nonprofit projects that leverage the cloud. These projects will use the application of advanced cloud services, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning or high-performance computing to create scalable solutions for a specific industry or field.
Winners will receive an unrestricted grant of up to $150,000; up to $100,000 in AWS promotional credit; project implementation guidance from AWS technical specialists; and access to AWS training and support.
The second grant — the Momentum to Modernize Award — offers funding to help nonprofit organizations enhance their operations through technology. Eligible projects might include migrating servers to the cloud or modernizing new and existing applications.
Awardees will receive an unrestricted grant of up to $50,000; up to $20,000 in AWS promotional credit; project implementation guidance from AWS technical specialists; and access to AWS training and support.
To qualify, you must be a nonprofit organization with 501(c) status or equivalent. Applications are accepted once per year through the AWS website.
9. State Farm Good Neighbor Citizenship Company Grants
State Farm offers three types of community nonprofit grants:
Safety grants. Focus on home and auto safety and disaster preparedness.
Community development grants. Support affordable and sustainable housing, job training, small-business development, personal financial literacy, among other initiatives.
Education grants. Funds awarded to programs in higher education, K-12 academic performance and financial literacy, and pathways for college and career success.
Currently, State Farm grant applications are invitation-only once per year. However, if you think your nonprofit has a qualifying project for one of these grants, you can reach out to your local State Farm Community Contact for assistance.
10. Google Ad Grants
Google Ad Grants provide eligible nonprofits with up to $10,000 per month in search ads shown on Google.com. These ads can be used to support marketing efforts, attract donors and recruit volunteers.
To qualify, your nonprofit must be a registered charitable organization with a high-quality website. You can apply for one of these grants through Google for Nonprofits.
Google for Nonprofits offers access to Google products at no charge. Through this product, your organization can use Google Workspace for Nonprofits (which includes Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Meet), Google Ad Grants, YouTube Nonprofit Program and the Google Maps Platform.
How to find and get grants for nonprofits
Finding nonprofit grants can be time-consuming — and applications are often competitive. However, if you devote the necessary time and effort, you may be able to secure free funds for your organization.
Use these tips to get started.
Review your mission
You can start by reviewing your nonprofit’s mission and what the organization hopes to achieve. Understanding your mission and goals will help you target the right grantmakers and create a compelling grant proposal.
Refine your search with keywords
Although there are many grants available for nonprofits, not all of them will apply to your organization. You can streamline your research process by searching with the right keywords.
Focus your grant search using keywords that relate to your mission, goals and specific project. For example, if you’re looking to fund a clean water project, you might include words like “environment,” “sustainability” or “sanitation” in your search.
Consider hiring a grant writer
Professional grant writers can provide expertise to help you through the application process. These writers can draft and refine grant proposals, keep track of eligibility requirements and manage deadlines.
Using a grant writer will also free up time for your staff and volunteers to work on other projects.
More resources for nonprofits: