Religious organizations used to be ineligible for any sort of government funding, but changes in policy have allowed for faith-based entities to compete for government grants at the federal, state and local levels. Private foundations may or may not fund religious organizations.
Government grant makers fund faith-based programs that deliver health and human services and other programs as long as the organizations do not require religious training in order to receive services. Private and family foundations may also fund religious programs.
Government grants available to religious institutions include programs that deliver a variety of medical, health care and human services. Government programs usually stipulate that religious instruction not be part of such programs. Some federal agencies offer training for faith-based grant writers to help you win grants.
Private foundations may fund religious programs of specific denominations. This may limit what they will fund. For example, Catholic foundations may fund only Catholic charities. Others may fund more broadly and may or may not prohibit religious instruction as part of the program. Corporate funders generally have the same sorts of restrictions as the government in the types of faith-based programs they fund. Many foundations do not fund faith-based programs at all.
Government agencies release requests for proposal (RFPs) at various times each year. Some release funds as they receive appropriations. Others have set times for making grant announcements. RFPs are complete grant announcements, with links to grant application packets and instructions necessary to complete the application process. It is recommended that you sign up for grant alert newsletters so you know when new grants are released.
Grants.gov is the federal clearinghouse for all federal grants. Sign up for its grants alert newsletter, which will let you filter out grants you are not interested in. State government websites have similar grants alert websites. At the local level, you should search your county, parish or city websites for grant announcements, and get to know the folks in charge. The staff can often give you a heads-up about upcoming grants.
To find private foundations, try your regional funding library. You can find one of these at some public libraries and at nonprofit management centers or the United Way. These libraries have expensive grant search tools and staff to help you use them; in most cases, access to the library is free.
Grant makers provide funding to religious organizations, because they believe that these organizations have the ability to effectively deliver programs and services to their communities that will meet public needs. If you can prove your ability to deliver cost-effective and successful programs and services, the doors will open for even more funding in the future.
Churches often support faith-based charities as budget line items. These regular gifts are, in effect, grants and should be treated as such. They are usually unrestricted funds and can help you meet costs that many other types of grants do not. Four or five grants from supporting churches can make the budget of a small faith-based ministry.