Financial support provides the leg-up that many small businesses need
to start-up and expand. But if you are a non-profit business owner,
getting the financial support you need to operate is even more
fundamental than that - it is your bread and butter.
As with most money management, the process of raising funds to support
the philanthropic efforts of your non-profit requires some
If you are strategic in your fund raising efforts you will have ongoing
funding (like a for-profit has run-rate business) and you will also
have episodic funding (a little like a business will get 'upside'
business wins or gains).
While ongoing funds are the most important element of your fund-raising
activities, since they provide a reliable foundation, episodic funding
also has a role to play. Below are examples of ongoing versus episodic
- Ongoing funds are typically obtained through multi-year
grants, a steady income stream from a store or sale of product (e.g.
the ASPCA sells custom address labels and stationery), or from
straightforward annual giving - where unrestricted funds are secured
through organized efforts to support the operation of your non-profit.
- Episodic funds include those secured through one-off corporate grants, bequests, etc. - they can be restricted or unrestricted in their use.
But where do you start to find the right blend of funds for your
non-profit? Here are a few sources of episodic and ongoing funds:
1. Federal Government Grants for Non-Profits
While individual donors amount to the largest contributors to
non-profits, you can also benefit from federal grant programs - a
definite advantage for non-profits. Many small businesses make the
mistake of believing that they are eligible for 'free money' in the
form of federal grants to fund their businesses., In fact, only
non-profits and certain organizations qualify for federal government grants.
As a non-profit, the best place to start your search for available federal grants is at www.grants.gov.
Once you have identified the grant or grants you think you have a good
shot at being awarded, you will have to register with Grants.gov. If
you are applying for more than one grant, make sure to cater your
application to that particular group’s specifications. This grant
could mean the ability to start the non-profit of your dreams and start
making an impact, so take the time and effort now to stand out.
Grants.gov is just one resource the government provides to non-profits;
check out these other information sources to find funding for your
- Business.gov has a page dedicated to resources for non-profits and includes information on grants and financial assistance for non-profits.
- The online Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance gives you
access to a database of all federal programs available to non-profit
organizations and institutions.
Philanthropic conscious corporate organizations can provide a good
source of episodic funding to non-profits in the form of sponsorships
or 'cause marketing'. Securing a good corporate sponsor for your
non-profit involves a willingness to invest in such a partnership and
provide tangible marketing benefit to them in terms of your
organization’s demographics, your outreach initiatives, etc. After all,
the true value to the corporation is to communicate their name and
brand message to your constituents.
This is an undertaking that requires planning and research, a shot-gun
approach is pointless - researching, evaluating and managing
partnerships for a mutually beneficial outcome will require strategic
investment on your part.
3. Federated Funds
These are contribution vehicles for donors to direct charitable monies
to groups and programs that they care about. The most well known is United Way.
Through affiliations with business employers, federated funds can
provide substantial funds to charities. The one downside is that they
tend to feature the 'big name' charities and exclude small, niche
Private, corporate, community and family foundations can be a lucrative
source of endowments to non-profits. The Council on Foundations
provides a window into thousands of foundations across the U.S. and
maintains a searchable directory where you can explore potential non-profit endowments in your field.
Other resources that can help you in your fund-raising efforts, from
sourcing funds to writing grant proposals, include the following:
- Business.gov’s Non-Profit Organization Start-up Guide -
This site collects links to programs and services to help non-profits
find opportunities available to them from the federal government
including grants and financial assistance, tax information, government
sales and surplus, and more.
- The Center for Non-Profit Success - Here you’ll find training and resources to help non-profits succeed.
- Foundation Center -
This is a non-profit that connects non-profits and grant makers. It
also provides resources and advice for starting and managing a
- Writing a Grant Proposal - From Summary to Budget
- USA.gov for Non-Profits
- This site is the online version of what many companies offering CFDA
assistance services use to advise their clients. It is available for
FREE to all who wish to reference it. It has specific information for
non-profits divided into 3 sections: grants/loans,
management/operations, and tax information.
- About.com Non-profit Portal
- Covering everything from starting up, fundraising, and managing
volunteers to marketing your non-profit, About.com’s Non-Profit Guide
is an invaluable and resource-rich Web portal.
- Non-profit Guides
- This site provides free Web-based grant-writing tools for non-profit
organizations, charitable and educational organizations, public
organizations, and other community-minded groups.