Howdy all. This is Jeffrey Helton, AmeriCorps VISTA at the Grow Appalachia headquarters in Berea. As a VISTA, my ultimate goal is to make your lives easier. In my pursuit of “capacity building,” I sent the Grow Appalachia family a survey exactly a month ago, hoping to discover what our partner sites need help with.

The most popular answer? Identifying funding opportunities.

Well, as I dived more into the topic of funding, I realized how complex it really was. (I even ended up taking ten pages of notes. Ick.) As a result, I’m going to attack this subject in a more digestible three-part series. What I’m about to cover here might be old news for some of you, but a refresher is always nice.

Alright. First of all, it’s very important that an organization’s funding comes from various sources. That way, if one source vanishes, the others can sustain the organization. To be perfectly honest, one of the very best sources of funding is fees for services rendered. For example, an organization might host youth poetry readings and charge audience members a modest fee of a few dollars. Another organization might sell shirts or hoodies and expand its brand.

Of course, those sources of funding won’t work for all nonprofits. Another substantial source of funding can come from the outside, in both governmental and private forms.

Government Funding:

The government has different pockets of money set aside for projects that aim to satisfy certain social goals. Some of this money comes in the form of loanswhile other money can be secured as grants. Loans are risky for nonprofits and should only be pursued by organizations with a solid vision for generating future funds—enough to cover any interest that builds, too.

Grants, on the other hand, can be harder to obtain, but you don’t have to pay them back. The main drawback to federal grants is that you have to follow the application requirements exactly; they’re not in a rush to throw money at just anyone, so they will eliminate applicants from the pool as quickly as possible. These grants can be very demanding and require that you have a powerful, definite plan for how you will use the funding if you receive it.

Information on various governmental forms of funding can be attained at the following sites:

Private Funding: 

Private funding often has fewer strings attached than government funding. Private funding usually comes from individual donations or foundations.

The importance of individual donations can often be overlooked in the nonprofit world, but they can actually be easier to come by as long as you integrate a donate now button onto your website and social media pages. (Speaking of which, hopefully your organization has those, too. They are important in establishing and maintaining relations with your customers and potential donors.)

Meanwhile, foundations are corporations or charitable trusts that are solely dedicated to bestowing grants to worthy organizations. Countless foundations exist, although very few of them have websites, so the world of foundations can be hard to navigate. (Many foundations are creating Facebook pages, however, so here is another place where social media can be your organization’s friend.) If you’re interested in diving into foundations, you can look through foundation directories like FoundationSearch, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, or the Grantsmanship Center.

Of course, not all of search features on these directories are available for free, and even then, finding the right funding match is no easy feat—which is why some creative search “cheats” are needed. But I’ll have more on that in due time. 🙂