Grants for 501(C)(3) Organizations

By Etta Mills-MacDonald

A nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status may qualify for various grants to help it carry out its nonprofit mission. Organizations that distribute grant money, called grantmakers, usually have a specific focus, serving certain types of nonprofits or populations in need. Some examples of 501(c)(3) nonprofits include educational, religious, charitable and scientific organizations, all of which may qualify for grants. Obtaining grant money starts with a thorough search for a grantmaker whose focus closely matches the mission of the grant seeker.

Foundation Grants

Nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations often obtain grants from private foundations. A foundation is a nonprofit entity whose activities include distributing money for charitable purposes to qualifying grant seekers. Some foundations are corporations, such as local chambers of commerce, while others are run by individuals or a group of community members. Sometimes, foundations are nonprofit subsidiaries of larger for-profit businesses which set aside some of their earnings for charity.

Foundation Directories

The Internet has streamlined the process of finding foundation grants. The web enables tax-exempt organizations to search for grant programs by visiting websites that provide foundation directories. Sites such as speed up the grant seeking process by providing each grant's application requirements at a glance. Some directories also have helpful resources on common grant application forms and statistics on the top grantmakers.

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Federal Grants

Another option for nonprofit organizations is to apply for discretionary grants from the federal government. Grant seekers can find federal grants by visiting websites such as These online lists can be sorted and filtered based on the type of funding activity the grant seeker is engaged in. Major grant categories include housing, education, community development and cultural affairs.

Other Grants

State and local governments are good sources of grants for nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations willing to take the time to do the necessary research. These grant makers aren’t always listed in a comprehensive directory, so multiple web searches may be needed. For state-funded grants, a good starting point is to go to the .gov website for the grant seeker’s state and type “grants” into the search box on the site. Local governments usually have similar search functions on their websites. Searching for grants on the websites of major newspapers in the grant seeker’s state is another useful method. Although time-consuming to find, these local grants can be less competitive than federal or private foundation grants and yield better results.

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501(c)(3) Types

Federal taxes are a significant expense for many businesses, but not for exempt non-profits. Non-profit charities that are organized under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) are generally tax-exempt, and their donors usually get tax breaks for supporting them. The IRS divides these charities into two categories: public charities and private foundations.

What Is Required to File a 501c3?

Being approved for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service can be a landmark day for any nonprofit, as it makes the organization more attractive to potential donors. However, becoming an exempt entity is limited to only certain organizations and requires providing detailed information to the IRS. Understanding which forms to file and what information must be included can help avoid confusion and delays in the process.

Foundation Vs. 501(c)(4)

According to the Internal Revenue Code, a foundation qualifies as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Internal Revenue Code identifies 501(c)(4) organizations as nonprofits as well. However, these two types of nonprofits are distinct from each other in that they provide different services and are organized for different purposes.

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