Many grant options are available to churches and houses of worship, but often the process of locating and applying for grants can be cost-prohibitive, and the research process alone can be daunting. Resources, however, do exist to help you locate free grants for churches, and then to complete the application process with the minimum expenditure of time and money.
Many private foundations and organizations offer affiliate grants to churches. These grants are often designated for churches within a particular denomination or region, such as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Missional Ministry Grant, which has awarded over half a million dollars in funding to partner churches, and the Champlin Foundation Grant, which awards funding for historic preservation to Rhode Island churches and houses of worship. When exploring the affiliate grant options available to your church, talk with the central denominational offices as well as other churches within your denomination or region to locate possible grant opportunities.
A number of private organizations offer grants to churches regardless of denomination and region, such as the Mustard Seed Foundation, which awards grants to urban churches that minister to the homeless, addicts, refugees, prostitutes and other disenfranchised groups within inner-city neighborhoods. Two solid resources for locating private grants, whether or not denominationally and regionally limited, are the Foundation Center and Guidestar, both of which offer extensive, searchable grant databases. While both require a subscription for use, many public libraries can help you access these resources for free.
Though the government, for the most part, does not offer grants to churches, a couple of federal funding options do exist. If your church is housed in a recognized historic building or a registered historic district, your church may qualify for a historic preservation grant. Or, if your church has a non-profit 501(c)3 status and operates programs for at-risk groups in your local community, then you may qualify for federal funding as well. The government offers grants to non-profit organizations that work with work-to-welfare families, individuals with HIV/AIDS, substance abusers, ex-offenders, at-risk youth, and the homeless and hungry within local communities, and sometimes churches can qualify for these funds.
While your church can hire a consultant to guide you through locating and applying for grants, a number of resources exist to help you navigate this process. The Foundation Center, for example, offers a user-friend guide to Funding Research and Resources, as well as examples of grant proposals. Publications that frequently cover grant-related topics include "The Chronicle of Philanthropy" and "The Grantmanship Center Magazine," the latter of which is available free to non-profit staff. "The Official Fundraising Handbook," similarly, is distributed free to schools, educators, administrators, and not-for-profit organizations in the United States and Canada.
Applying for grants can be a fairly involved process. Preparing as many of the needed documents and forms ahead of time as possible can help to streamline the process. Most churches will need to provide copies of tax returns (Form 990), proof of 501(c)3 status, an annual report, information on the church (such as brochures), copies of financial statements, audit reports, permits for state and local fundraising, and letters of support. Preparing several copies of these documents prior to beginning the grant application process can help to reduce the amount of time spent during the actual process.