There are many different types of grants and government grants are a category of their own. For most nonprofits, it’s important to understand where to find information on federal, state, and local funding.
Whether you are new to researching and writing government grants or have years of experience, this article will provide insights to help you find the right grants for your organization. If you are interested in how to find government grants for nonprofits, we will help you begin the planning process and learn where to search for these opportunities.
What to Consider Before Applying for Government Grants
Government grants can be difficult to find and even more difficult to apply for and receive. One critical step of the process is to make sure that a government grant is the right fit for your organization. These types of grants can provide a significant amount of funds but often come with many specific guidelines and requirements for the recipient.
Here are a few of the most important things to consider before applying for government grants:
It is important to know what you plan to use the funds for before beginning your grant research. You should evaluate your budget and your strategic plan to determine whether you need a government grant.
Grants can support general operating expenses, capital expenses, or specific program expenses. By knowing ahead of time what you need funds for, you will be able to determine the best types of grants to seek.
If you are interested in unrestricted grants for nonprofits or grants for new nonprofits, government grants may not be the best fit. It may be more difficult for a new nonprofit to meet all of the requirements of a government grant. The application process for government grants typically requires many specific documents and certain steps such as registration through the System for Award Management (SAM).
As a new nonprofit, you may not have all of this information easily accessible. Government funders may also look for a diversity of funding sources which you may not have established yet as a new organization.
Government funding typically focuses on specific programs or projects rather than unrestricted funding, but you must research the specific funding opportunity to learn the priorities and requirements. In recent years, there have also been many government grants focused on COVID-19 relief.
Beginning in 2020 and continuing into 2021, there have been multiple federal, state, and local funding opportunities to support those impacted by COVID-19. These funding opportunities included many grants for nonprofits focused on COVID-19 for 2020 and 2021.
Because the impacts of COVID-19 are continuing, there will likely still be funding opportunities available in 2022. Organizations that have been impacted by COVID-19 or who are helping those impacted can check with local, state, and federal government sources to find these opportunities. Some counties and states have specific databases focused on COVID-19 grants.
Government grants typically have very specific requirements and a lengthy application process. If you are interested in applying for a government grant, it is important to understand the amount of work that will be required.
There will also be reporting requirements which often include demonstrating the impact that funds have on those you serve. Your organization must be able to devote the appropriate amount of resources to the application process and report on the work that you intend to achieve.
When applying for any grants, you will need to make sure that you have all of your organization’s documents in order. Funders will require documents such as proof of nonprofit status, grant budget, organization budget, strategic plan, and specific details on the type of work that their funds will support.
Government grants, in particular, will require additional information such as registration as an entity through Sam.gov. The entity registration is required for your organization to be eligible to apply for federal government grants.
The first step is to obtain a Data Universal Number System (DUNS) number so that your organization can register through Sam.gov. You can find out if your organization already has a DUNS number obtained through the Dun and Bradstreet website. The site also provides instructions on how to obtain a number if needed.
Finding US Government Grant Opportunities
When figuring out how to find government grants for nonprofits, it is important to know that there are multiple ways to find government grant opportunities. The main database for federal funding is Grants.gov which lists funding opportunities through all 26 federal grant-making agencies. Once you identify a federal grant opportunity that you are interested in, you would need to go to Grants.gov to find details and application documents.
You can also find government grants through standard grant research sites such as Instrumentl, GrantStation, GrantWatch, and others. Instrumental can be helpful in this process by easily identifying government grant opportunities and allowing you to track grant progress. We will go into more detail about these resources later in this article. Please keep in mind that government grants, particularly at the federal level, are often focused on work that can be replicated or used as a model for others.
Finding federal grant opportunities will require you to know keywords appropriate to your work and organization as well as the location where your work will take place. Knowledge of keywords and location(s) will make searching easier and help you identify opportunities that align with your work.
Board members are often a great resource for all types of fundraising. If you have a good board, then it likely includes people who have connections. Ask your board members if they have any information about federal grants or perhaps have a contact that they could connect you with.
Depending on the work that your organization does, you or your staff may already have connections to grantmakers. Perhaps you know someone within a certain local or state department that you can reach out to or maybe you have a relationship with a public official that could provide insights.
It is also always helpful to look at who funds organizations similar to yours. If a certain government agency has funded work similar to what your organization does, you are likely eligible as well. You can also reach out to contacts at these organizations to learn about their experience with government grants.
Finding State and Local Grant Opportunities
If you are looking specifically for state or local funding, you can search the websites of the appropriate entities such as your local department of health and human services, or your municipality. Some states have grant databases available where they gather information on multiple opportunities in one place.
These types of funding opportunities may also be found through other grant research databases such as Instrumentl, GrantStation, GrantWatch, and others.
Additional sources for local and state government grants include your organizational network. You or someone within your organization likely has a relationship with your county commissioners or city officials. You may also know staff within these government bodies that could help point you in the right direction to find grant information.
Your board members can be a good resource for many types of grants and some of them may also be involved in the local government. Perhaps you also have a connection to contacts at the state level such as Representatives or Senators.
If you are looking for how to find government grants for nonprofits, staff at the government entity are often helpful because they maintain the day-to-day workings of the departments.
As with any funding opportunity, you will be able to search keywords and specific locations to help find funding aligned with your organization. You can also research who has funded similar organizations or similar work. Keep in mind that funding priorities can change often, so make sure to do your research and find out current priorities.
Sources of Government Grants for Nonprofits
If you’re interested in how to find government grants for nonprofits, look no further than Instrumentl. Instrumentl is a good resource for all types of government grants due to its smart matching technology. The database provides links to grant opportunities that help you find more information about the funder and the application process. We have provided a screenshot of the matches section of the database to demonstrate this feature.
Instrumentl also provides insights about past grant awards based on location and/or keywords which can help you learn who is funding similar work. Below is a screenshot of past grantees in Ohio for a specific funder.
As we mentioned earlier, Grants.gov is the database for all federal funding opportunities. The website lists funding opportunities for the 26 different federal grant-making agencies and includes over 1000 grant opportunities. Whether you are learning how to find government grants for nonprofits for the first time or have searched these opportunities before, Grants.gov is a valuable tool.
You will need to apply for any federal grants through Grants.gov as the site contains all application details and documents. It is important to note that to apply for federal grants, you will need to be registered through Sam.gov.
Foundation Directory Online
If you are learning how to find grants for nonprofits, Foundation Directory Online is a popular grant research database. While Foundation Directory Online focuses on funding through foundations, the database also includes federal government grants as well. The grant research tool includes comprehensive funder profiles which can help you learn the basics about a funding opportunity.
Another grant research database that can be a source for government grants is Grantwatch. You can use this research tool to identify many types of grants for nonprofits including federal, state, and local government grants. Anyone can register for their free weekly newsletter that provides basic information on many types of funding.
Even if you do not subscribe to the full database, you could use the weekly newsletter as a learning tool and then further research government grants on your own.
Although certain grant databases such as GrantWatch include some information on local and state funding, these types of government grants can be a bit more difficult to find. Local and state grants are, however, a great funding resource because they are already focused on your specific location.
One way to learn about these opportunities is to reach out to various departments at the local and state level. Depending on the type of work that your organization does, you could reach out to the Department of Health, Department of Human Services (could be combined with Department of Health), Department of Transportation, Department of Education, any small business or economic development groups, County Commissioners, or City Council.
You may be able to find information on websites for these entities, or it may be more beneficial to reach out to staff at these agencies for guidance. Perhaps you already have a relationship with people that are part of these groups and departments that can help provide insights.
Anyone interested in how to find grants for nonprofits can start with a simple internet search. Google or other search engines can be a good place to start, especially for state or local funding opportunities. Once you identify potential funding sources, you can then find more information on the appropriate agency or department website.
You could search grants for your locality or grants for your specific work in your locality. For example, if you provide afterschool care in Indiana, you could search “state of Indiana grants for afterschool programs”.
The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance
The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) was a former resource for federal government grants. The CFDA has been combined with other government systems in 2018 to make it easier to find funding opportunities. The information that used to be available in the CFDA is now available through Grants.gov.
Funding opportunities within Grants.gov are organized based on the CFDA number so if you do know this ahead of time, it can make searching easier. Grants.gov organizes funding opportunities based on the CFDA number, so if you already know of a specific funding opportunity you can narrow your search quickly.
Wrapping Up: Next Steps for Finding Government Grants
Whether you are new to grants or have been writing them for many years, we have helped you learn how to find government grants for nonprofits. Hopefully you have found this information useful and now feel better equipped to search for and potentially apply for government funding.
Researching and writing government grants is very similar to other grant opportunities except that writing a government grant can be very time-intensive. Make sure your organization can allocate the appropriate resources to the process.
As with any grant research, make sure to utilize your resources such as board members, current contacts, and information about who funds similar organizations. And don’t forget you will need to register through Sam.gov to be eligible for federal funding.
Keep in mind that there are still resources for grants for nonprofits for COVID-19 and these should be available through many of the sources and databases that we have mentioned. Instrumentl is a great place to research government grants including grants for nonprofits for COVID-19.