Grant Resource Page
As part of our effort to engage more community organizations, Pierce County Human Services (PCHS) is offering an online resource to support groups who may struggle with capacity to seek funding through grants, whether from PCHS or other sources. On this webpage you will find basic information on grant funding, tips for submitting a funding application, grant searching tools and various resources.
The purpose of this website is to offer guidance and resources for writing successful grants. Use of this website or any part of the Grant Resource Page does not guarantee funding from Pierce County Human Services or other agencies, businesses or community organizations.
Grant funding 101
Grants are one resource for funding organizations, programs, or projects to benefit the community at the individual, family, or community level.
Proposals that clearly demonstrate how the funding will benefit participants and the overall community will generally have a greater chance of being funded. Grants can come from public or private sources. There are similarities and differences of both types.
Public grant funding is financial assistance that is provided by a government agency at the federal, state, or local level. These grants are typically awarded to organizations that are working to address a specific public need or issue.
Private grant funding, on the other hand, is financial assistance that is provided by a private foundation or corporation. These grants are typically awarded to organizations that are working in a specific area of interest to the funding source. Private grant sources may include charitable foundations, corporations, or organizations.
Overall, public and private grant funding can both be valuable sources of financial assistance for organizations working in the human services field. It is important to carefully research the specific requirements and eligibility criteria of each potential funding source to determine which is the best fit for your organization. Below are key components to consider when seeking grant funding and to help with grants management once awarded funding.
Public grant funding is typically available to a wider range of organizations, including non-profits, schools, and local governments. Private grant funding is often more selective and may only be available to certain types of organizations or those working in specific fields.
The application process for public grant funding is often more competitive and may require more documentation and a longer application process. Private grant funding may have a simpler application process, but may also be more selective in the organization they choose to fund. This may mean that they prioritize organizations by budget size (e.g., revenue less than $500,000), service area, target population, time since incorporation/501(c) status, etc.
Public grant funding is typically larger in amount, may cover a wider range of expenses, and generally limits administrative expenses paid with grant funding. Private grant funding amounts are typically more modest than public grants. Private funding restrictions vary widely ranging from general operating support to program expenses excluding personnel costs.
Public grant funding is almost exclusively reimbursement-based, meaning that revenue from the award will not be provided until after the grantee submits an invoice to the funder. Payment can take days to weeks following an invoice submission. Reimbursement may also be delayed due to the contracting process which may be prolonged for organizations who are new to the funder or for a new program. In contrast, private grant funding may be entirely upfront, may also be reimbursement-based, or may be dependent on deliverables such as specific milestones or achieved service levels.
Both public and private grant funding typically have reporting requirements to ensure that funds are being used as intended. Public grant funding may have more stringent reporting requirements and may require more frequent reporting. Even if a private funder does not require reporting, it is a good idea to communicate with funders about progress and/or challenges to maintain a good relationship. It is especially important to communicate quickly when challenges arise in a program that could impact the organization’s ability to meet its stated goals. Funders don’t want to learn at the end of a grant or several months after a known issue arises that there is an issue. Ideally, your organization will be able to inform the funder of the issue and the plan to improve performance (how will you get the most service units/best outcomes given the situation). But don’t wait until you have the perfect solution to present the bad news. It is never fun to receive a call from a funder who learned of the issue from someone outside your organization or program.
Grant searching tools
Searching for grant funding (grant prospecting) can be one of the more difficult aspects of the grant process. It can truly be like panning for gold as you sift through the names of potential funders until you find the nugget of gold--the funder whose mission aligns well with your program or project and funds in your service area. There are many grant search resources around, many of which can be fairly costly. Here are some free or low-cost resources for finding grant opportunities:
There are paid grant search databases also ranging in price. Some have short-term options that may be more affordable if you are able to block off a period of time and have a clear idea of what you need to find.
In addition, many funders have websites and e-newsletters where you can learn more about their funded programs and funding opportunities.
The National Council of Nonprofits has a grant research tools chart of several grant search databases indicating what is included with each, what is not, and cost. The chart is not exhaustive and has not been updated recently but may still be helpful.
When considering applying for funds, it's important to consider the funder fit. This includes geography, priorities, funding level, type of funding, average funding amount, and more. Build out your list of search criteria before you start searching a database. Things you will need to consider for the search include:
- Total grant funding needed – you may need to seek funding from multiple sources for a program, but you don’t go to a large national foundation like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation if you have a program that only needs $5,000. On the other hand, you would not go to a small family foundation with total assets of less than $500,000 as the sole funder of a $200,000 project. But they may be a good fit for an ask of $500 - $5,000 which could be used to supplement a public grant and other private funding.
- Service area – some funders are interested in specific geographic areas (e.g., Gig Harbor, Pierce County, greater Tacoma area, communities where the company’s headquarters are located). Other funders may restrict funding based on the size of the service area rather than the specific location (e.g., neighborhood-based, multi-state, entire county).
- Fields of interest – for grant search tools that have a keyword function starting broader in your search may yield a greater number of potential funders but will also result in more funders who may not be a good fit for your program. When developing your search, you can usually input multiple search terms. The results will only list grantors that meet all your selected criteria. It may help to conduct more than one keyword search to find those that fit your needs (e.g., if searching for funding for a youth housing program servicing those experiencing homelessness search by “homelessness,” then a second search by “homeless housing,” and a third search for “youth”).
Are you ready to apply?
There are several key things that can help an organization be prepared to manage a grant:
- A strong organizational structure: A clear organizational structure in place, with well-defined roles and responsibilities can be extremely useful for grant seeking and grant management. These roles may include a program manager, a fiscal lead, and an executive or board members for governance. Most private funders only award grants to non-profit organizations recognized by the IRS under section 501(c)3.
- Strong financial management: Grant funds must be used in accordance with the grant agreement/contract and must be properly accounted for. It is important to have strong financial management processes in place, including budgeting, accounting, and reporting systems.
- Capacity to implement and evaluate the program: It is important to have the necessary staff, resources, and infrastructure in place to implement the program as planned and to track progress and evaluate outcomes.
- A plan for sustainability: Grants are typically time-limited. Unless funding is being requested for a one-time project, it is important to have a plan in place for how the program will be sustained once the grant funding ends. This may involve seeking additional funding sources or identifying other ways to support the program.
Additional Grant Resources
What to expect in 2023
As the Grant Resource Page develops over time, we plan to expand on the following in 2023: technical assistance, insurance, monitoring, and records retention.