Exploring Eligibility: Nonprofit Organizations Seeking Federal Grants

Nonprofit organizations pursue a wide range of important and beneficial missions – both in the United States and internationally. Included in this broad group are charities, schools and universities, environmental protection groups, religious and faith-based organizations, social welfare and advocacy groups, scientific institutions, non-governmental agencies, and many more.

Exploring Eligibility blog series

Although 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofits are the most well-known, there are over 20 different types of classifications. If you’re interested in learning more on this topic, here are two authoritative sources of information: Charities & Nonprofits and Title 26 Internal Revenue Code, Subtitle A—Income Taxes, Chapter 1—Normal Taxes and Surtaxes, Subchapter F—Exempt Organizations, §501.

Grants for Nonprofits

Many federal grants are available to nonprofit organizations, including those with or without 501(c)(3) classification. In the Grants.gov Search page, we split nonprofits between those that have and do not have 501(c)(3) status because this is a distinction made both by federal awarding agencies and by authorizing legislation for the grant programs.

If you work with a nonprofit organization, including faith- or community-based organizations, you are eligible to apply for federal funding so long as these funds are used solely for the provision of social services and not used for “inherently religious” activities. For an explanation of what this means, and other guidelines, refer to the resources from the Administration’s Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Okay, but how do I know if my nonprofit is eligible to apply for a grant?

If you’ve been reading our other Exploring Eligibility posts, you may already know that each grant program has different, sometimes specific, eligibility requirements.

As a prospective grant applicant, you need to take the time to carefully read the funding opportunity announcement to figure out if you are eligible to apply for the grant. Because the federal grant-making agencies have some options with how they construct their funding opportunity announcements, this eligibility information is not always in the same place.

When using the Grants.gov search, use the Eligibility search criteria to narrow your grant search results to those you may be eligible for. Once you’ve found a funding opportunity, the full, official eligibility requirements are in the funding opportunity announcement, which may be in the following locations:

  • Synopsis tab, under Link to Additional Information.
  • Related Documents tab, as a single PDF or in a zip file
  • Package tab, then create a workspace or click the Download Instructions button

Another consideration after checking the eligibility is whether the grant program is aligned with your organization’s mission. Given the importance of a nonprofit’s mission, consider the alignment of the grant program with your organization as you review the funding opportunity announcement. Mission alignment will contribute to your application as well as implementing the program should you be awarded the grant. Once you’ve checked eligibility and considered alignment, you are ready to apply for a grant.

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12 thoughts on “Exploring Eligibility: Nonprofit Organizations Seeking Federal Grants

    1. Hi David, if you have applied for a federal grant through Grants.gov, the awarding federal agency will contact the awardee after it has finished the application evaluation process.


      1. An awardee contacted me yesterday he gave me a confirmation number and asked. How do you want to receive the money because of a bad signal. I did not get all the info. Is it real or bogus I would like to know


  1. we would like to start a daycare in my home town. Right now we are in the process of building a new church and wanted to do the daycare and probly an after school class .I want to know is it possible to get a grant to help build the class room or family life center


    1. Hi William, you should use the Search Grants tab to search for daycare, childcare, and similar key words for grant programs to see if any are currently available from the different grant-making agencies: http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/search-grants.html

      Also, the following blog article, Exploring Eligibility: Nonprofit Organizations Seeking Federal Grants, may be helpful as an overview to your search https://blog.grants.gov/2016/08/09/exploring-eligibility-nonprofit-organizations-seeking-federal-grants/


  2. Our local church currently does counseling. However, the need is now growing in our area due to the high volume of soldiers, veterans, and families who are on waiting lists for the agencies in our areas. I have searched through the possible grants and am not sure which of the agencies would be a good fit for our organization. We already have the buildings so it would be a matter of expansion of our current programs.


  3. How Can I apply for a grant for emergency housing I’m currently homeless at the time and I don’t know where to go online to apply could someone help me please


      1. I need a personal grant I am having a hardship right now I never ask for a personal grant before I sure can use one. I can not afford the $29.95 applcoaation fee I need help cam you help me thank you Sincerely your Linda Guenther


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