Churches rely on their congregations to fund the operations of the church (electricity, building maintenance, staff salaries, etc.) and the mission(s) for which they exist. Their goal is not only to nurture their members but also to serve those in need, locally and beyond.
So church financial requirements can be great. This is especially true if the church has bold ambitions regarding their vision and mission projects. In an economy where uncertainty is the norm, member giving may not always meet church goals.
Church giving and membership numbers have been on a downward slope for several years. According to the 2012 edition of the State of Church Giving, church members gave an average that year of 2.2% of U.S.per capita after-tax income to their churches. This was a decline from 2.28% in 2011 and 2.51% in 2010.
Many consultants and web sites offer help in increasing giving. Here we review potential outside sources of funds to forward your vision:
Discover your program today!
Update June 2019
If you are part of a Christian Science church look into the Isabel Foundation Grant. This foundation provides grants to promote and facilitate projects and activities having to do with this faith. The grants honor the memory of Isabel Mott. It has tended to favor projects and organizations that focus largely on art, youth, grace and especially healing. The median size of grants awarded since 1998 is $25,000, with a maximum grant amount of $450,000.. Applications for a grant must be in by the first of February 2020, and you must be a nonprofit to qualify. Learn more and get guidelines for applications at the Isabel website.
Be on the alert if you are a church, mosque, synagogue or other type of nonprofit organization! The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act from 2017 includes a tax which will hit you up for taxes on the parking and transportation benefits you provide to employees. In essence this is a tax on the organization itself. And it's also one which will use some controversy once people are made aware that it is there. It has already been noticed that this is the first time in U.S. history that houses of worship have been taxed. And beyond the tax are regulatory requirements which could impose additional costs. Fortunately a new bill has been introduced which would eliminate this new cost. It's called the LIFT Act for Charities, so be on the lookout and be ready to voice your suppoertvoice your support.
Update May 2018
President Trump has made it clear that he approves churches’ rights to FEMA funds after disasters. He has also — like the two presidents before him — set up a White House faith office. It will differ from its predecessor, however, in that it may actually have some teeth and get some helpful things done. The desire is to work together between government and religious organizations to help to alleviate poverty, ensure religious freedom, strengthen the family, help people with addictions, reduce crime, help prisoners with their re-entry into society and more …. basically to help and strengthen programs run by local agencies.
Update November 2017
Are you looking for funds to start a new church? There is an interesting portal that highlights people “planting” new churches in cities around the world (including in the UniteStates..). They consider global cities to be the “fastest growing missions frontier.” Their goal is to bring new life to cities through users prayers and financial gifts. redeemercitytocity.com also helps to develop leaders and offers numerous resources such as leadership training and grants for new “plants.” Their support also includes helping the leader in the city/new church to create a gospel-centered church and to reach out to nourish the needs of the city — both spiritual and physical. Check out the website to donate or to find out how to get help for your vision to start a new church.
Update July 2017
The Department of Health and Human Services is a major funder of grants which primarily go to states, tribes and territories. But they also have awarded more than 30,000 grants to other entities in previous years. The recipients are organizations that provide critical services in their communities, and these include faith based efforts. To find grants you can use this handy guide to grants.gov. You can also go to the HHS website to subscribe to their Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Grant Information Newsletter. While HHS does not fund these grants directly they are a good, regularly updated source of information about resources that are available from others.
Update March 2017: Tips on Winning Grants
Foundations are a great source of grants for churches. Unlike some other grant-makers they do not tend to rule out up front any sort of faith-based applicants. You can learn more about foundations and applying for grants from them in our article about types of grants and where to find them. Also do not rule out using grants.gov to search for funds for your church. It can be intimidating but read on to learn some great tips about how to use it, you could be surprised how useful it is.
To increase the likelihood of your church winning a grant from a foundation or even a corporation, focus your campaign on what you will be doing for the local community. For instance, if you have a building campaign you may be more likely to receive grant funds if the purpose of the new or improved structure benefits youth and things like sports programs, arts, or homework help. Or perhaps you will be making improvements to areas that can be used as temporary or weeknight shelters for the homeless. Many churches have building campaigns that are at least partially for new preschool facilities. Anything that demonstrates a strong caring for and link to the community will put you in good stead at grant decision time.
News November 2016 The Supreme Court says it will take a look at whether states have to consider churches eligible for grant money just as they do secular organizations. This has come about since a Missouri agency rejected a church’s application for grant money to resurface its preschool’s playground. The state says that religious instruction is part of the preschool’s daily program. The preschool says the grant will be used to keep children from getting hurt when playing outside and will have nothing to do with religious instruction. Stay tuned for more as the case progresses — could have some interesting implications.
If you search “grants for churches” you will get a lot of results. But you may have a hard time getting what you are looking for! Many of the results will be companies or organizations that will - for a price - help you to write grant applications. Rates from one vary from $500 to $7500 depending on the length of the writing required. Another offers weekly rates starting at $225 per week. But those won’t help if what you are really looking for are actual grants for which you can apply…
We can help you with that! Here are some options you can look into and then decide whether you want to hire a grant writer or go ahead and do it yourself. You can get plenty of direction and valuable tips about that at Grant Writing and Write Foundation Grants Fast.
If you are part of a larger denomination with a formal organizational structure you may be able to receive a grant from your own “parent” church. For example, the United Methodist Church provides grants to member churches as part of a specific campaign as well as to those who wish to start a new church. Your parent church is an excellent place to start looking for a grant since you already have a relationship with the grant maker.
Catholic Charities USA is a large national organization that does a lot of good works. Their network of agencies provides social services and assistance in underserved communities. In 2015 they awarded more than $8 million in grants to 24 of their member agencies. They are supported by donations as well as government funding and offer help to all people regardless of religious beliefs.
The Alliance for Greater Works — formerly known as the Faith and Philanthropy Institute seeks to put partners and clients together to bring about major positive change in communities. They provide leadership training in addition to working to put effective organizations — including faith communities — together with potential funding organizations. If your church has a strong following and track record - and has a vision and plan to create change in your community - these folks could be worth contacting.
Tech Help Need some help upgrading your technology (or lack thereof) to modernize and improve your effectiveness? If you’ve put projects aside because you don’t have in-house expertise and/or your budget is already stretched, there’s a group that could help you. Techsoup is an organization with a mission to help non-profits that are making the world a more equitable place. They do so by matching donor organizations who provide a range of services, software, hardware and training. They have a pretty impressive network of businesses and other entities as well as community activities with libraries across the U.S. techsoup.org is definitely worth checking out to see what could be possible for your church or project!
The Mustard Seed Foundation provides grants for local church start-up projects in large urban centers around the world. They have very explicit priorities that they use to evaluate grant requests that come to them. Their focus is very much on the unique challenges of urban churches — 80% of all their grant awards go to urban churches. They look for new, grass roots projects that will be managed locally; they partner with visionary individuals who are supported by their church; they favor dynamic, innovative projects that “show the love of Jesus in word and action.” They expect the local church to be financially invested in the project as well, so they provide matching grants (i.e., the church must come up with funds in an amount that matches the grant award). Learn more at msfdn.org.
Oldham Little Church Foundation is a private foundation with a focus on small evangelical Protestant churches in the U.S. In 2015 they awarded grants of a total of almost $1 million. Since they began they have given more than $42 million to over 16,000 churches for capital projects like renovations, repairs and new construction. They accept applications online only. Interestingly, there are no application deadlines! They review applications about four times each year and if you miss a cycle that hold you over to the next cycle. To apply you provide a range of information including your size and attendance numbers, how many new church members over the past year, how many baptized or brought to Christ over that same time period, and more. You can get complete details about what information they require and how you can apply on their website oldhamlcf.org. They do not require you to be a 501c3 organization. Churches have one year to complete the project for which they request funds.
Lilly Endowment, based in Indianapolis, provides grants to promote and strengthen excellence in the ministry in church congregations. They have an emphasis on recruiting and educating young church leaders. They also provide funds which allow pastors to take some time off, with part of the funds being used to hire interim clergy. Though much of their activity has a local focus, they also support some national and foreign projects. Learn more at lillyendowment.org.
Partners For Sacred Places awards funds for people and groups who are trying to care for consecrated sites. As part of that effort they focus on communicating the ways in which such locations build up and stengthen communities. They also have come up with innovative ways to re-purpose former churches for new uses. Could be very relevant in these days when some churches are failing. Also check out information on a related topic in this article about grants for historic buildings.
Additional Resources: More useful information about grants churches may qualify for can be found at Grants for Nonprofits. And learn how to do a detailed search for relevant leads on the government’s database of funding opportunities in this review of and guide to grants.gov.