How to Find Grants for General Operating Funds

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September 2007
How to Find Grants for General Operating Funds

by Katie Krueger

General operating money is certainly one of the more difficult categories of funding to secure, mostly because it’s a lot less appealing to the funder. Let’s face it, paying rent is not nearly as sexy as helping people fulfill their potential as human beings. However, there are unrestricted grants out there, if you know where to look.

My first suggestion would be to look at your current list of donors: they are always your best prospect list for future gifts. Look for those that have been consistent givers with whom you have built a relationship, who have a deep confidence in your programs already. Supporters who have granted your requests regularly and easily in the past may have the ability to give more if asked. Some of these supporters may already give general operating gifts; others may need a bit of gentle convincing. Do your homework and review their giving guidelines before making your request.

Secondly, you should always write operating costs into program grants when possible. Most foundations understand that extra programming leads to increased indirect costs (e.g. electricity, rent, computer use, etc) and expect to see this line in the budget. Depending on the funder, you may write anywhere from 2%-20% of indirect costs into a program budget.

Thirdly, if you don’t already have a larger fundraising plan, now is the time to make one. Funding your organization with grants alone is very risky because their funding comes and goes with the whims of the economy. In the stock market slump between 2001-2003, many foundations cut back or eliminated grant gifts altogether. A good fundraising plan should be diversified and incorporate income from corporations, individuals, and income-generating projects as much as possible, as these funds are unrestricted.

Finally, if all else fails and you are still looking to grants for these funds, there are indeed foundations that grant such requests. They are limited in number, and the competition is stiff, so it’s a good idea to start with those in your local area. A few examples:

Sobrato Family Foundation
Shubert Foundation
JP Morgan Chase: Meet the Composer Grant

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