Government Grants for Nonprofits: Who is Eligible and How to Get One

Nonprofit government can help pay for equipment, staff, building and maintenance, and other operational or program costs. Government grants can be an excellent and reliable income source, but the application process can be grueling. In this blog, we’ll explain the different types of government grants, their benefits, where to find them, and the criteria required for each.

6 minutes read
Government Grants for Nonprofits: Who is Eligible and How to Get One

Grants make up a significant percentage of many nonprofit budgets. Government grants can be an excellent and reliable source of income, but the application process can be time-consuming. There are several different types of government grants. Each type has different eligibility requirements and responsibilities.

This article will explain the benefits of getting a government grant, where to find them, and the criteria required for each.

Benefits of Government Grants for Nonprofits

1. Credibility

Government grant funding comes with a lot of credibility with donors and other financial partners. Donors look for organizations that have already received this funding. While many donors don’t know the ins and outs of the application process, a government grant instills a lot of respect and trust.

For this same reason, nonprofits should list each grant the organization receives on their website to make it easy for donors to find.

2. No debt

Government grants are the best option for nonprofits because you don’t have to repay the grant. With government grants, nonprofits will receive funds to pay for equipment, staff, building and maintenance, and other operational or program costs.

3. Widely available

Another benefit to government grant funding is how widely available they are. Nonprofits can search for larger federal grants worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars or look for local government grants that may help fund a smaller project or piece of equipment for a few hundred or thousand dollars.

4. No limits

Finally, there is no limit to the number of government grants a nonprofit can apply for. It is also often possible for a nonprofit to rely entirely on government grant funding. Though it is advisable to create other reliable sources of funding as well.

Eligibility Criteria

Determining your eligibility for a government grant will be your first concern since you don’t want to waste your time applying for grants you can’t receive. Each government grant has its own criteria. When searching for potential grant options, you must read entirely through the grant’s instructions and understand all eligibility requirements.

You may be surprised, but you don’t have to be a nonprofit organization to apply for a government grant.

The following organizations, groups, and individuals can all find government grants.

  • State and county governments.
  • Cities or township governments.
  • Native American tribal governments.
  • Independent school districts.
  • Private institutes of higher education.
  • Public and Indian housing authorities.
  • 501c3 nonprofit organizations, except higher education institutions.
  • Nonprofits that don’t have 501c3 status and are not higher education institutes.
  • Businesses.
  • Individuals.
  • Foreign applicants.

Know in detail about the eligibility criteria on the GRANTS.GOV website.

Where to Find Government Grant Opportunities

federal grants for nonprofits

Remember when we said government grants are widely available? Your nonprofit can apply for grants from federal, state, and local government organizations.

1. Federal grants

Federal grants should be allocated to nonprofits by Congress by October 1 each year. If you hope to apply for these funds, it is best to search the budgets of the President, Congress, and the Office of Management and Budget to better understand where the government will increase or decrease funds over the next year.

There are also several places to search for and apply for federal grants, but the first location is GRANTS.GOV. This website provides information on how federal grants are created, how to apply, and how to track grants you’ve applied for. It also includes a list of federal grants you can find with keywords, your opportunity number, or CFDA (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance).

Other government-run websites like and the Federal Register can help your nonprofit find recent and unfunded federal grants.

Your Senator or Congressperson may also have a page on their website explaining how to find federal grants.

2. State grants

The ease of finding a state-funded grant varies based on your location. Some states will make it easy with an updated grant portal on their website. Others make you jump through more hoops. Google remains one of the easiest ways to find state grant applications.

You can also contact the offices of elected state officials to find links to potential state grants.

3. Local grants

Local grants may be easier to win but harder to find. These grants can be found through your local county or municipality. Some local grants are also listed on GRANTS.GOV and, but nonprofits can also find these grants by contacting their County Commissioner, City Council, and even the transportation department.

Choosing The Right Grant Program for Your Nonprofit

Now that you know where to find them, you must decide which grants are worth your time. Before making this decision, you’ll likely have to do internal research and list what you need and how well you can follow all grant reporting requirements.

Here are 2 necessary steps to follow:

1. Restricted or unrestricted

Government grants are very time-consuming and competitive. The larger the government grant, the more competition. Before applying for anything, ensure you have an amount in mind and understand where these funds go within your nonprofit.

Are you looking for program funding, new equipment, capital support, or operational funds? Program, equipment, and capital funding are restricted, and nonprofits can only use the grant money they receive for those projects. This is why you must decide the exact amount.

Unrestricted funds are ideal for most nonprofits because they can use these grant funds anywhere. If your nonprofit is looking for unrestricted funds, you’ll want to look for government grants that will provide operational support.

2. Grant reporting requirements

After deciding how you will use grant funds, you must understand all grant reporting requirements and how you can meet them. Government grant reporting requirements may include:

  • Financial data
  • Federal and state compliance information
  • Project data with community impact

Nonprofits must keep detailed reports on how they use government grant funds and how their programs impact their beneficiaries and local communities. They can provide this information through regular progress reports, site visits, and financial audits.

Do your due diligence and research the government grant’s application guidelines, agency contacts, review process, and past grants before applying.

4 Tips to Help Ensure Government Funding for Your Nonprofit

If your nonprofit decides to apply for government grant funding, you can do many things to ensure your organization’s success.

1. Use the right keywords

Keywords are probably the easiest way to find government grants. Nonprofits can use keywords to find government grants on GRANTS.GOV,, Federal Register, and other grant websites.

Nonprofits should use their mission and vision statements, programs, and competitor grants to find possible keywords.


Screenshot of Foundation of Freedom's website.

Foundation of Freedom’s mission statement: “Foundation of Freedom is a value alligned community empowering the African diaspora through economic activism, and educational resources.”

Possible keywords: economic activism, educational resources, African diaspora

2. Have dedicated staff to keep up with any changes

Your staff and volunteers are the ones who usually help find and apply for government grants. But you must also have a dedicated staff member who goes through all government grant websites and agencies on a regular basis to keep up with any changes to eligibility requirements and application dates.

This person should also be comfortable with making phone calls to respective authorities whenever needed. Government grant programs change frequently. By calling their program director, you can stay current on any program changes, eligibility, contact, and formatting requirements.

3. Hire a professional grant writer

Your grant application must be as perfect as possible. You should in no way miss out on grant rules for a particular type or forget to mention something important. This only comes with experience. Unless you have a volunteer with expertise in writing a proposal for the type of grant you’re going to apply, it is advisable that you do not take the risk. While your staff members and volunteers can always keep an eye on any sudden changes in rules and eligibility, your grant writer is the only person who will be able to take the right step toward them. You do not need a full-time grant writer. You can always hire them on hourly basis or flat rate per grant basis. Check out this Donorbox article on hiring the best grant writer for your nonprofit.

4. Keep detailed information and provide measurable results

One of the primary concerns many nonprofits have about applying for government grants is reporting. Government grants are well-known for requiring detailed financial and program information. In addition to sending audited financial reports, you’ll also want to share how the funded programs and equipment have a real-life impact on your community.

One good way to share this impact is with your nonprofit’s annual report or impact report.

Final Thoughts

Nonprofits can find federal, state, and local government grants. These grants can range from a few hundred to millions of dollars. Nonprofits looking for this funding source must be prepared for the time and effort it takes to apply and report on these grants. Before applying for a government grant, you’ll also need to determine how to use funds within your nonprofit and if you have a system that helps you pull data easily to create reports.

With grants, you can accomplish bigger projects and campaigns but you need to ensure a steady flow of money into your nonprofit to keep the good work going. Donorbox helps you set up a donation page and a recurring donation form in as less time as just 15 minutes. You can sign up for free and there are no monthly contracts as well. Our donations pages and forms are on-brand and you can also embed the recurring form on your website if that’s what you prefer.

Our other popular features include crowdfunding, peer-to-peer, events, memberships, donor management, text-to-tive, QuickDonate, and more. Donorbox is one of the most affordable all-in-one fundraising platforms available for nonprofits and we’ve already helped 80,000+ organizations raise over $2 billion in donations.

Donorbox offers a success package to help nonprofits break through the donation ceiling. It’s called Donorbox Premium. Pricing is personalized for each nonprofit and you get access to expert coaches, an account ambassador, high-powered tools, and adept techies. Your nonprofit success is only a click away!

Explore more nonprofit grant-related articles, fundraising tips and resources, downloadable checklists, and more on the Donorbox Nonprofit Blog. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive a curated list of our best resources (guides, articles, podcast episodes, webinars, product updates) in your inbox every month.

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Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.

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