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How Nonprofits Can Qualify for Grants

by, Willie Finklin, CFRE


Hi there, I'm Willie Finklin, a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) with years of experience in the nonprofit sector. As someone who has worked with various nonprofits, I've been asked numerous times about how organizations can qualify for grant funding and navigate the application process.

I understand that applying for grants can be overwhelming, and many nonprofits struggle to secure the funding they need to carry out their vital work. That's why I wanted to take some time to share my insights and provide helpful advice on how nonprofits can increase their chances of qualifying for grants.

In this blog post, I'll be discussing the different types of grants available, where to find them, and what funders look for in successful grant applications. My aim is to provide informative insight without overwhelming you with too much information, so that you can feel more confident in pursuing grant funding for your organization.

So, let's get started!

Nonprofits are vital:

Nonprofits are a vital part of our society, providing essential services and support to those in need. However, securing the necessary funding to carry out their work can be challenging. One potential source of funding for nonprofits is grants, which are monetary awards provided by government agencies, private foundations, or corporations to support specific programs or projects.

Thus, we will discuss how nonprofits can qualify for grants and increase their chances of success in securing funding including:

  • What are grants for nonprofits?

  • Types of grants for nonprofits

  • How nonprofits can find grants

  • Qualifying for grants as a nonprofit

  • Tips for writing successful grant proposals

  • Common mistakes to avoid when applying for grants

  • FAQs about nonprofits and grants

Types of grants for nonprofits:

There are various types of grants available to nonprofits, including:

  1. Project-based grants - These grants are designed to support a specific project or program. They are typically awarded for a set period, usually one year or less.

  2. Capacity building grants - These grants are designed to help nonprofits build their infrastructure and increase their capacity to carry out their mission. Examples of capacity-building activities include strategic planning, board development, and fundraising training.

  3. General operating support grants - These grants are provided to support the overall operations of a nonprofit, including salaries, rent, and other expenses.

How to find grants for nonprofits:

Finding grants for nonprofits can be a time-consuming process, but there are several resources available to help organizations identify potential funding opportunities. These include:

  1. Grant databases - Many online grant databases allow nonprofits to search for grants by keyword, funding area, and eligibility criteria.

  2. Government agencies - Federal, state, and local government agencies often provide grants for nonprofits, particularly those working in areas such as education, health, and the environment.

  3. Private foundations - Private foundations are another significant source of grant funding for nonprofits. These organizations typically have specific areas of focus and may only fund nonprofits that meet their eligibility criteria.

Qualifying for grants as a nonprofit:

Qualifying for grants as a nonprofit requires careful planning and preparation. Some of the key factors that funders consider when evaluating grant applications include:

  1. Alignment with funding priorities - Funders are more likely to award grants to organizations whose programs or projects align with their priorities and mission.

  2. Financial stability - Funders want to see that nonprofits have a stable financial foundation and are capable of managing grant funds effectively.

  3. Clear goals and objectives - Nonprofits should be able to articulate their goals and objectives clearly and demonstrate how the grant funds will help them achieve these.

Tips for writing successful grant proposals:

Writing successful grant proposals requires a thoughtful, well-planned approach. Here are some tips to help nonprofits increase their chances of success:

  1. Understand the funder's priorities - Before submitting a grant proposal, nonprofits should carefully review the funder's website and guidelines to ensure that their proposal aligns with the organization's priorities.

  2. Tell a compelling story - Nonprofits should use their grant proposal to tell a compelling story about their organization and the impact of their work.

  3. Be clear and concise - Grant proposals should be clear and concise, focusing on the most critical information and avoiding jargon or technical language.

Common mistakes to avoid when applying for grants:

There are several common mistakes that nonprofits should avoid when applying for grants, including:

  1. Failing to follow guidelines - Nonprofits should carefully review the grant guidelines and ensure that their proposal meets all of the requirements. Failure to do so can result in a rejected application.

  2. Lack of clarity - Nonprofits should avoid using vague or overly technical language in their grant proposals. The proposal should clearly outline the organization's goals, objectives, and how the grant funds will be used.

  3. Not providing adequate evidence of impact - Nonprofits should provide evidence of the impact of their work, including data and testimonials, to demonstrate the effectiveness of their programs.

  4. Ignoring the funder's priorities - Nonprofits should ensure that their grant proposal aligns with the funder's priorities and mission. Proposals that do not align with the funder's goals are unlikely to be successful.

  5. Submitting incomplete applications - Nonprofits should ensure that their grant application is complete and includes all required attachments and supporting documents. Incomplete applications are often rejected.

FAQs about nonprofits and grants:

  1. Can nonprofits apply for grants from multiple sources? Yes, nonprofits can apply for grants from multiple sources as long as they meet the eligibility criteria for each grant.

  2. What is the typical timeline for the grant application process? The grant application process can vary depending on the funder, but it typically takes several months from the time of application to notification of the grant award.

  3. Can for-profit organizations apply for grants? While most grants are awarded to nonprofit organizations, some funders may provide grants to for-profit organizations that are working on projects that align with the funder's priorities.

  4. Are there any fees associated with applying for grants? Most grant applications are free to submit, but some funders may charge a fee for processing or reviewing the application.

  5. Can a nonprofit reapply for a grant if their application is rejected? Yes, nonprofits can reapply for a grant if their initial application is rejected. It is essential to carefully review the feedback provided by the funder and make appropriate changes to the application before resubmitting.


Securing funding is a significant challenge for nonprofits, but grants can provide valuable support for their programs and projects. To qualify for grants, nonprofits must carefully plan and prepare their applications, ensuring that they align with the funder's priorities and mission.

By following the tips outlined in this article and avoiding common mistakes, nonprofits can increase their chances of success in securing grant funding.

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