Funding your nonprofit

We can connect you with resources and expert advice to fund your nonprofit. Grant funding is vital to the success of nonprofits, but the process of finding and applying for grants can seem daunting if you’re just getting started.

One of the first steps is finding grants you are qualified to receive. We subscribe to several resources from the Foundation Center to help you do just that. The Foundation Center’s mission is to make the world a better place by helping philanthropists connect with organizations that are doing good work.

Librarian Jill Mickel has been awarded grants found through the Foundation Directory and now she helps library customers navigate the process.

“Some years ago I worked for a small nonprofit in a neighboring community and I came to the library to search for grants,” Mickel said. “A librarian showed me how to use Foundation Center’s database. In addition to searching for grants I was able to find out information for each grant-maker about the application process, the usual size of grants awarded and other projects that had received grants. This information made it possible to focus on grants that were truly attainable for my organization. Ultimately, we were successful and were awarded the grants we sought.”

Mickel notes that the Foundation Directory also saves nonprofits time.

“Having good information about the application process, deadlines and the types/sizes of grants usually awarded helps to focus your efforts on attainable appropriate grants and avoid wasting time,”Mickel said. “I know people who work for nonprofits often wear many hats and are extremely busy! It’s really important not to waste time on endeavors that won’t pay off in the long run.”

While you’re at the library, you can access these tools:

Foundation Directory Online Professional
Find information on U.S. foundations, direct corporate giving programs and grant-making public charities.

Foundation Grants to Individuals Online
Find sources for scholarships, fellowships, grants, awards and other financial support that fund individuals.

Foundation Maps
Foundation Maps is Foundation Center’s premier data visualization tool and the easiest way to see who is funding what and where around the world.

Next comes the application process. Lynne Crabtree of Topeka’s Housing and Credit Counseling Inc. (HCCI) notes that applications for small sums are often as much work as those for larger amounts. HCCI offers three top tips for potential grant seekers:

  1. Know your funder’s priorities and do not submit if your mission / project does not align with the funder’s priorities.
  2. Keep it organized.  Follow the RFP (Request For Proposal – or the directions) precisely and be sure to address:
  • project budget – if you can’t identify/justify all costs, you can’t write the grant
  • needs documented – not a “wish” or perceived need
  • activities to meet the need/s
  • outcomes for the grant recipient and also for the funded agency
  • next steps – leveraging to sustain the project beyond and/or in addition to the grant award.

3. Study the request for proposal (RFP) and ask for letters of support (LOS) and/or other documentation well in advance.

  • draft LOS for the people / agencies you ask to provide this documentation – they are more likely to help if you provide the template
  • make a timeline of your deadlines

If you want more tips and examples, check out the lists below for books on grant writing and nonprofits. As always, ask a librarian if you’d like help getting started.


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Miranda Ericsson

Miranda loves to talk lit! Her favorite reads are poetry, literary fiction, and speculative science fiction, and she's passionate about promoting great literature written by Kansas authors. She works with library programs that support and engage writers in our community, so ask her for more information about the Local Writers Workshop, Great Writers Right Here author fair, and Community Novel Project. Miranda is also a member of the library's Genealogy Team and Fiction Team, facilitates TALK book discussions, and co-leads the Bean There, Read That book discussion group.