Running a nonprofit can be difficult. Between all of your duties, fundraising campaigns, and managing your staff, it is natural to sometimes feel like you are stretched thin.
And while you may have great ideas for innovations, or there might be some pressing structural needs you need to address, it can seem impossible to accomplish them when all of your donations are going directly toward your mission.
This is why capacity grants can be lifesaving.
In this article, you’ll learn how to find capacity grants fast so that you and your nonprofit can continue to thrive.
What Are Capacity Grants?
Most grants awarded to nonprofits are designed to directly advance the mission the organization is devoted to. The funds provided are used solely toward projects linked to the cause, with their aim being focused on solving the issue at hand.
Capacity grants, by contrast, are designed to support the nonprofit itself. When a funder awards a capacity grant to an organization, they are doing so knowing that the funds provided will be used for the strategic development of structures within the organization.
Some expenses you might finance with a capacity grant could include:
Consultants for in-person or web-based education and training
Providing new services to staff, such as mental health evaluations
Creating new positions
Hiring external contractors
A capacity grant invests in the nonprofit so that the nonprofit can have the resources it needs to better fulfill its mission.
Capacity grants can be both restricted and unrestricted—meaning that the funder can either stipulate specific parameters as to how they wish the funds to be used for the benefit of the nonprofit, or they can give the nonprofit the flexibility and freedom to use the funds in whatever way they believe would most benefit their organization.
Why Are Capacity Grants Important?
There are many reasons why capacity grants are so important to nonprofits.
The most obvious one is that they provide nonprofits with the resources they need to improve their internal structures. This, in turn, allows the nonprofit to function more efficiently and dedicate more of its time fighting for their mission.
Think of it this way: if a nonprofit is facing some internal difficulties—perhaps with their website or their work pipeline—a lot of hardworking hours and supporters’ donations can be wasted by working around the issue. By using a capacity grant to fix the problem and create better systems, the nonprofit will have more time and money to focus on their mission.
It is not just the quantity of work that will be increased, but the quality of it as well.
By giving nonprofits the resources necessary to invest in things such as consultants, contractors, and training, capacity grants give nonprofits the tools required to improve organizational design.
In other words, by wisely utilizing the funds awarded by capacity grants, nonprofits can not just continue to run as they always have in the past, but they can grow, expand, and thrive thanks to better tools, resources, and innovation.
Finally, capacity grants also free up individual donations so that they can be used for the mission rather than for the operation of the nonprofit. Because nonprofits exist in the real-world, they need money to function.
However, donors often tend to prefer for their donations to be invested not in the nonprofit fighting for the cause they care about, but in the cause itself. By investing in the nonprofit rather than the cause, a capacity grant allows more of the donations to be used directly towards the mission.
Click to find the best grants for your nonprofit from 12,000+ active opportunities.
Whenever searching for any type of grant, a great starting point is to discuss the matter with your staff so that together you can come up with a budget.
The process of applying for grants is long and complicated, requiring not just hours of investment, but occasionally, money as well. For this reason, you need to discuss with your team to know where your nonprofit currently stands and what type of commitment and sacrifices you’ll need to make when embarking on this journey.
How much time can you afford to spend every week on this process?
How much will this process cost you?
How many of you can actively work on this while also juggling your usual responsibilities?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can create a budget for how you plan on using the funds awarded by the grant. This information will be useful in helping you see how the capacity grant will benefit your nonprofit so that you know what funding amount you should aim at during your search.
2. Explore Your Network
This is an easy step that does not take a lot of time, but it can also be easily overlooked.
When trying to find the best capacity grants for your nonprofit, talk to your staff. Do they have any recommendations? Do they have experience that can help you in your search?
If you are in contact with other nonprofits, don’t hesitate to reach out to them to see what they have to say. Ask your friends or your family if the companies they work for have a philanthropic branch that occasionally awards grants to nonprofits.
While it is true that this step might not yield many results, it does not require much time, effort, or money, making any potential lead provided a good head start.
3. Begin Locally
When trying to find grants, it is usually recommended to start locally.
There are many companies, foundations, or even government agencies that seek to benefit those operating within their communities. While it is true that the funds awarded by these grants tend to be smaller, the same can be said for the competition, which increases your likelihood of winning funds.
Create a list of companies, government agencies, and foundations that you know are based within your city or county. You can keep and manage this list on a physical notebook or in an excel file—whatever is easiest for your team.
After you create your list, look at their websites. Many will include information on the campaigns they supported in the past, or they will include a link to a separate website dedicated solely to the philanthropic branch of their company.
Write down requirements, deadlines, and any other important information you can find on the grants that your nonprofit qualifies for.
4. Expand Your Search
Once you’ve exhausted your local leads, it is time to look outside of your community.
Just as you did in the previous step, make a list of all the companies, government agencies, and foundations you can think of, only this time, don’t limit yourself to your local communities.
Do not be afraid of going big, or even going abroad, as there are many world-renowned organizations that recognize the importance of supporting smaller nonprofits that operate on a local level.
Once more, you’ll have to look at their websites and write down all of the requirements, restrictions, and see whether or not your nonprofit is a fit for their grant.
5. Look at Similar Nonprofits
This is another easy step to skip, but one that could yield a lot of potential leads.
When trying to find capacity grants, look for nonprofits that are similar to yours. Note that when we use the term “similar” we are not referring simply to nonprofits that share a cause with you.
Similar nonprofits can include nonprofits that:
Have a similar number of staff members
Have a similar number or demographic of donors and supporters
Have been around for a similar number of years
Have a similar outreach strategy
Chances are, if they were awarded a capacity grant in the past, you might also qualify for that particular grant.
6. Use Search Engines
Search engines such as Google are incredible tools that put a wealth of information right at our fingertips. That being said, the information they provide is not highly curated, which means you must know the right keywords to use if you want to get the best results.
Try some of the following:
Lists of Nonprofit Capacity Grants
Unrestricted Grants for Nonprofits [CURRENT YEAR]
Capacity Building Grants Example
Capacity Building Grants [CURRENT YEAR]
Capacity Building Grants for Nonprofits
If possible, also try adding your city, state, or your field of interest to find some less well-known grants that are focused on helping nonprofits like yours.
When using search engines you want to try a variety of different keyword combinations to get a wider range of results that are still relevant to your objective.
7. Use Free Online Databases
After exhausting your search engine of choice, it is time to give free online databases a go.
While at first glance databases might seem similar to search engines, there are a few key differences between how they operate. To put it simply, a search engine will look through the entire web to select results and rank them based on an algorithm while a database will conduct its search in a more limited yet more focused scope by searching through an already curated collection of information.
For example, Grants.org is a database that focuses on government grants. Just like with search engines, we encourage you to try different keywords combinations to ensure a wider variety of results.
Paid databases are also a great investment that can help facilitate the research process. We’ll discuss this in more detail later in this article.
We recommend you begin by looking at the application deadline for each grant you found. Do you think you have enough time to complete the application and to do it well? If not, strike it out. Take a note of it so that next year, you can start getting prepared as early as possible.
Next, double-check the requirements. With each grant, ask yourself: after all the research you’ve done, do you still believe your nonprofit qualifies for it? Do you meet all of the requirements? Strike out the ones that you’re not a good fit for, and consider organizing the remaining results into a tiered list.
If you did not do so in the step above, then look closely at the restrictions. While some capacity grants are unrestricted, others are not. Would those restrictions interfere with how you planned on using the funds to help your nonprofit? If so, consider striking them out.
Finally, check the grant amount. When evaluating whether those funds are worth the time and effort you’ll have to pour into the process, ask yourself these questions:
Would it be enough for what you need?
Would there be a surplus?
Would there still be something missing?
By eliminating and organizing these grants into a tiered list, you can see which ones are the best fit for your nonprofit.
9. Prepare Your Documents
By this point in the process, you should have a curated list of capacity grants that you not only qualify for, but that would be a great fit for your nonprofit’s needs. Now, you have to prepare your documents. Doing so will give you a head start in the grant writing process.
Through your research, you’ll have learned that every grant is unique and every funder has their own preferences regarding what type of documentation they would like to see included within the application.
However, you should not discount these immediately. In many cases, a simple introductory email asking whether or not your nonprofit would be welcome to apply for a grant is enough for them to not consider it as an “unsolicited application” anymore.
Getting into the habit of introducing yourself, your nonprofit, and your work can help you foster relationships with funders. While these may not pay out immediately, they can help you build networks that could help you in unexpected ways in the long-term.
11. Consider Hiring a Grant Writing Consultant
The last step in finding the best capacity grants for your nonprofit is, arguably, also the first step in your grant writing process.
A grant writing consultant is an expert that can be a great asset to the grant application process. However, they can also be quite expensive, and they cannot guarantee you will receive the funding.
Whether or not a grant writing consultant is worth it depends not only on the specific circumstances of a nonprofit, but it may also vary depending on the grant. Take those factors into consideration when looking at your list and seeing which capacity grants are best for your nonprofit.
If you’re unsure whether a grant writing consultant would be a good choice for you and your nonprofit, you can check out this post on our blog to help you make a more informed decision.
How Instrumentl Can Help You Find Capacity Grants in 3 Easy Steps
Capacity grants can be an immense help to nonprofits of all sizes. However, the process above can also be incredibly daunting.
Luckily, there are easier ways to find capacity grants fast.
Instrumentl is an online grants database that helps nonprofits find grants efficiently and effectively. Thanks to its intuitive design and unique features, this tool condenses all 11 steps above into 3 simple ones.
1. Create and Set Up Your Instrumentl Account
In order to use Instrumentl’s comprehensive database, you must first create your account and fill in the required information about your nonprofit and your fundraising needs.
If you’re still unsure whether Instrumentl is right for you, you can start a 14 day free trial with no credit card information required.
2. Let Instrumentl Match You with Active Upcoming Grants
This step is the key to finding capacity grants fast.
The entire process we went through above is condensed into one thanks to Instrumentl’s Smart Matching feature. Through a combination of a comprehensive grants and funders database and an intelligent algorithm, Instrumentl uses the information you provided about your fundraising needs to quickly give you a list of active upcoming grants that are a good fit for your nonprofit and that align with your mission.
3. Manage Your Grants Pipeline
Instrumentl offers grant management tools to help you streamline and oversee your entire grants pipeline.
For example, Instrumentl’s Grant Tracker feature allows you to save grants for easy access and reference, with all the information regarding the grant, funder, and past applicants readily available.
Furthermore, Instrumentl sends you deadline reminders so you are always on task.
You can also export the data on saved grants to PDF or CSV files, to more easily share it with your staff, potential investors, or simply just to keep a physical copy with your files.
5 Common Capacity Grants Questions
Now that you know the best way to find capacity grants, here are some common questions that might still be lingering in your mind.
How Else Do Capacity Grants Differ from Other Grants?
There are many nuanced differences between capacity grants and other forms of grants. One of the main ones involves how you’ll frame your application.
While many grants will require you to tell a narrative focused on the issue your nonprofit is trying to address, when writing for a capacity grant, you should instead focus on things such as program development and expansion.
What are Some Examples of Capacity Grants?
If you’d like to see how capacity grants work in real life, check out this post which includes a list of some example foundations that provide capacity grants for nonprofits.
What are Some Other Things I Should Consider When Evaluating if a Capacity Grant is Right for Me?
There are many different factors you should consider when deciding whether a specific capacity grant is right for your nonprofit. We’ve discussed some of the main ones in this article, but you should also take into account things such as competitiveness and how much time you and your staff can spare to the grant writing process.
What are Some Common Mistakes to Avoid When Searching for Capacity Grants?
The most common mistake to avoid when searching for capacity grants is not being thorough with your research.
Luckily, by reading this article you are already starting down the right path. As you might have noticed, there are a multitude of factors that go into this search, and it’s natural to feel frustrated.
But frustration can lead us to either give up too soon or to not pay attention to crucial details. This is another way in which tools such as Instrumentl can make a big difference in your search.
When Should I Start Looking for Capacity Grants?
While you may have heard of the term “grant writing season” before, the truth is that there’s no exact date for when you should start your search, as deadlines can vary.
That being said, just because a deadline is too tight, or just because you missed it, doesn’t mean you cannot start getting prepared for next year’s application. It is never too early to begin getting ready for a grant.
Wrapping Up: How to Find Capacity Grants Fast in 2023
Running a nonprofit is difficult, and sometimes, money can be tight. Whether you are seeking to innovate or to simply fix problems with your current structure, capacity grants can truly make a difference in this regard.
This guide provided you with two ways to find the best capacity grant for your nonprofit so that you can not just stay afloat, but thrive as you move forward.
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