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In A Time of Need: How to Search for Grants for Your Faith-Based or Community Based Organization

This post was written by Lynn Weinstein a Business Reference Librarian in the Science, Technology, and Business Division.

While we are closed to the public and many of our patrons are staying close to home, we are serving our researchers through the Library of Congress Ask-A-Librarian service. We get a number of questions from people and organizations looking for grant money. I thought I would share my results in this blog, as the information could be particularly beneficial to faith-based organizations or Community-Based Organizations (CBO). Especially with COVID-19, community based organizations are increasingly important in relief efforts. They may be involved in delivering food to the needy, serving the homeless, providing housing, and engaging in community based mental health services as the number of people that have plunged into poverty has skyrocketed.

boy receiving pail of soup in kitchen of city mission

Young boy receiving pail of soup in kitchen of city mission. Dubuque, Iowa. John Vachon, 1940. Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection. //www.loc.gov/item/2017810023/

Faith or community based grants are available through many foundations and through the federal, state, and local governments. In order to apply for a grant, a faith-based organization needs a 501(c) (3) IRS ruling establishing it as a non-profit organization. If your organization does not have this status, you may want to consult our Law Library’s Nonprofit Organizations: A Beginner’s Guide. For state level information, you may want to consult the official state government pages related to forming a non-profit for the state where your organization is located.  Links to these pages are listed  on  the Internal Revenue Service’s  State Links for Exempt Organizations page.

Searching for a grant that works for your CBO takes time, but the best way to begin would be to look for grants that fulfill a specific need. Do you need to rebuild after suffering from a natural disaster? Do you need assistance serving the homeless? Do you need to expand youth programs? Do you need to expand your food pantry? By searching for your specific needs, you’ll find it easier to find a grant that meets the needs of your CBO.

You can search for grants by using the Grants.gov database. Search the database by using terms like “faith based” or “Community-Based Organizations (CBOs)” or “religious organizations.” You can search specifically for keywords that are based on your needs, for example: community garden, health and nutrition, community mental health services or homeless services.

Police distributing eggs and bread to city’s needy at E. 104th St. station house, 1930. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection.
//www.loc.gov/item/95514429/

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) contractors and grantees play a valuable role in helping to protect the health of all Americans and provide essential human services, and you may want to review their Grants & Contracts page. Check this HHS site for specific information about COVID-19 relief.  HHS also has a Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives that would be useful for faith based organizations.

Be careful to use trusted sources of information for your search. The most trusted are likely to be sources with a .gov URL since these are official government databases.  Other trusted  sources include organizations and foundations such as  GuideStar and The Foundation Center, which  recently combined to form Candid and these organizations will have an .org URL . For funding from state governments or counties or cities, go directly to their websites, which is where funding opportunities are usually listed, or contact the government office directly for guidance.

When applying for grants, it may be advisable to hire a professional grant writer. The Grant Professionals Association is an international membership association for those working in the grants industry. Grant writers can also assist you in researching and locating grants for your organization.

Learn More:

Breadline at McCauley Water Street Mission under Brooklyn Bridge, New York, between 1930 and 1934?
//www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2017760112/

Have a question? Need assistance? Our librarians and program specialists are here to help you via Ask-A-Librarian.

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