A few years ago it was unheard of for a faith based organization to apply for mainstream funding from the federal government.
This was due, in large part, to the US Constitution and the separation of church and state. This all began to change in 2001 with the formation of Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives (now called Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships).
This office was tasked with expanding the role of the faith based and community organizations within the federal funding arena. No longer were faith based organizations declared ineligible to apply simply because the mission of their non profit mentioned faith. Many of the same rules that apply to to non profit agencies seeking funds also apply to faith based organizations.
If this is your first foray into the federal government funding circles, there are some things you will need to know. You have to be registered first. The federal government requires that each and every applicant for federal dollars have a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) Number via Dun and Bradstreet. It is how all federal dollars are tracked and without this number, you simply cannot apply. You can apply for this number by calling D & B.
Moreover, if you have not registered your organization with the Central Contractor Registry you will not be allowed to apply for funding. This process can take up to two weeks and is fairly involved. If you think that there is a remote chance that you will apply for funding go ahead and begin the process. It won’t hurt to be registered and not use it; the reverse could be catastrophic. To begin the CCR Process, visit bpn.gov/crr and click on Start New Registration.
The Internet is an invaluable tool in searching for funding. There are clearinghouse type websites that can provide you with corporations, foundations and other funding sources that you can search through to find that gem that is just waiting for you to apply. The federal government’s grant system can be found at www.grants.gov and lists funding opportunities that are searchable by keyword and agency.
Take the time to read through the various funding sources and their requirements. Find out if your organization is a good fit and meets the requirements listed. You can even do a bit more research and find out previous awardees and determine if your mission falls in line with previous recipients.
Here is where some faith based non profit organizations might have a bit of trouble. Do you have a proposal writer on staff? Are you counting on volunteers to craft these often very involved applications? Has your organization ever submitted a grant application before? If this is all new to your organization and to the person who is going to actually be tasked with craft the proposal; start off slow and small.
Read the application thoroughly before you begin writing. If you have questions, the majority of funders will have a phone number that you can call for technical questions. Some even have a help desk- especially at the federal level. You have to know what they want from you before you can give it to them.
If there is a checklist with the application materials get to know it well. This will be vital to you in making sure you have everything that is being requested and that you have included it with your application. The grant application will tell you exactly what the finished proposal should look like. Follow those instructions and create a proposal that fully explains your case and how their funding will help you meet the need in your community. Take advantage of the changes to the system that now allows faith based organizations apply. Bring those federal dollars back into your community and help those that are most in need of help.