Churches are often more than a place of worship. They are an integral part of local community services. Benefits of churches for community activities include neutral space, sufficient parking, and volunteers to help with programming. Additionally, the church is experienced in working with diverse populations and is familiar with the community’s needs. But religious groups often find it difficult to locate financial aid outside of the congregation. Fortunately, church grants are available through several sources including foundations and some governments.
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Foundations are able to support churches if they have the appropriate tax designation from the IRS. Small churches may not have an IRS designation of any type. There are foundations that support churches regardless of designation. However, the vast majority of foundations require the 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation from the IRS before an organization can be eligible for grants.
If a church does not have the necessary designation, support may be provided to a partner nonprofit who becomes the fiscal agent for the church grant. This is a way for foundations to support projects while maintaining their legal obligations under their own IRS tax code. Grant implementation remains the same under this process with the exception of the actual grant money being administered by a third party.
Church grants from supporting foundations can be used for a variety of religious activities including church planting. Churches also have capital expenses. Like all buildings, they require ongoing maintenance. Church grants are often requested for brick and mortar activities such as a new roof or to resurface the parking lot. Funds raised by the congregation are frequently insufficient for these larger projects.
As long as the space benefits the wider community, funders are usually willing to support the church’s request for a grant. The foundation may require proof that some funds have been raised internally to show community support for the project. Program officers from the foundation may visit the space to determine suitability for the proposed project.
Grants for churches are also available from governments. Local governments may be able to provide support to churches for non-religious activities such as after school programs or recovery support groups that are open to the public. One source of funding is the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) which can be used to help churches provide community-based services beyond their religious activities.
The federal government allows faith-based groups, including eligible churches, to participate in most federal grant programs. There have been grant programs that specifically target this group of organizations. These grants were intended for grass-roots activities conducted by churches and other faith-based activities. Because churches are often the unifying location in communities, they are ideal for community-based projects and programs.
When reviewing grant guidelines, check eligibility requirements very carefully. If you have questions, contact the grant administrator for clarification. To receive a church grant, you need to write and submit a compelling request for funding.