How do NPs ask for Grants?

To continue our series “Ask the Foundation,” we’ll answer the question “How do non-profits apply for grants?”


The Community Foundation of Grundy County has a number of ways to assist area not-for-profits obtain funding and other support for their projects and mission, including grants, networking, and marketing.


The board of directors establishes a grants budget each year, using both unrestricted and Communityworks dollars.  We accept grant applications any time of year.  Our fiscal year is the same as the calendar year, so grant applications are entertained as long as there is money in the budget, so we encourage not-for-profits to apply early in the year.


To apply, a not-for-profit submits a packet containing a number of items including (at least) a letter explaining the project, the budget of the project, and the organization’s IRS Letter of Determination showing they are a 501c3 charity.  The full list of items to be included in the packet is listed in our grants brochure which is available in our office, via e-mail, and on our website.


Our Grants & Program Committee meets on the first Wednesday of the month to review grant applications and give staff guidance on programs.  Based on the conversation and information in the application packet, the Committee may request more information, deny the grant request, or approve the grant request which then goes to the full Board for approval on the third Thursday of the month.


If a grant is denied, staff sends a letter to the applicant explaining why.  If a grant is approved, staff sends a contract to the application to sign and return before the check is written.  It is expected that a grant recipient will mention the Foundation in their marketing of the grant and/or project and submit a final report after the project is complete.


The Community Foundation traditionally provides grant monies for seed projects, urgent capital needs, and building the capacity of not-for-profits.  We like to fund seed projects because we know many organizations dream of a project they’d like to try but don’t have the funding.  In this case we act like investors to help get a project started provided the organization has a plan for sustainable funding in the future.


We have also funded capital purchases such as new phones and computers that have been struck by lightning and equipment and software that allow a charity to take their organization to the next level.  This can also be said of grants to charities who would like to increase the knowledge, skills, and capacity of their staff, board, and organization as a whole.  This can include registration and travel for a unique conference or workshop, strategic planning, or consultants and evaluators.


The Foundation traditionally does NOT provide general operating funds as this is the role of the United Way of Grundy County.  We support projects run by churches to benefit the whole of Grundy County, but we do not give grant dollars to support a particular church or religion.


Let me insert a mini lesson here regarding “charities.”  Organizations applying for Foundation grants need to be an IRS-recognized 501c3 charity or be a local unit of government with a charitable project that benefits the public as a whole.


There appears to be confusion about how to prove that an organization is a 501c3.  The fastest, easiest way is to submit your Letter of Determination from the IRS.  I’m constantly baffled at how many charities don’t know what this is or where it is in their files.  Let me put it plainly: your IRS Letter of Determination is your organization’s birth certificate – you need to keep it in a safe place.  Your organization also needs to find and keep your Articles of Incorporation from the State of Illinois.  These two documents are the most important ones – don’t lose them!


To prove non-profit status, many submit their letter from the Illinois Department of Revenue showing that they are exempt from paying sales tax.  This is not the same thing and we do not accept it in lieu of your IRS letter.


Back to our support of local charities: we also steward a number of Donor Advised Funds here plus we network and know the charitable goals of many donors and companies.  Both groups have asked us to pass along good ideas when we hear them.  If we get a grant application that’s out of our budget, we send the information along to our donor friends who may choose to fund it personally.


We also offer to help market a charity’s needs through our extensive network across Grundy County and the region.  “Many hands make light work” is true of fundraising, too – if many are buzzing about a project, odds are good that many will respond with support.


For more information about our grants program, please contact us at 815-941-0852 or visit our website at