Church grants or more properly, faith-based grants, are available through many foundations and through the Federal government.
There are support programs that offer grants for churches by targeting funding for community-based programs. This category might include after-school programs for at-risk students, early reading programs, classes on safe food preparation or any other targeted program that affects communities.
A keyword search on the www.grant.gov website will turn up large numbers of grants that can be used by churches. The trick is to use the correct keyword. The two most productive searches generally key on the words “religious organizations” or “faith-based”. Even a cursory examination of the grant titles will show that these grants are targeted to specific societal problems and are open to religious organizations. The U.S. government does not support specific denominations, although some grants for churches may be focused on certain geographic or ethnic groups. For instance, the the grants.gov website has posted notices for grants for family planning education for the state of Alaska. (For an example of application guidelines, see FY12 Announcement of Anticipated Availability of Funds for Family Planning Services Grants (Alaska) PA-FPH-12-022.) This announcement does specifically require nonprofit status to receive funding. Another strategy is to use keywords specific to your nonprofit mission, such as “family planning” or after-school programs”.
One stumbling block for many churches is that they are not automatically considered nonprofit entities for granting purposes. The churches must incorporate a nonprofit element within their business model to apply for most church grant funding. This might be a nonprofit whose mission is specifically for “community betterment through education”, as an example.
The key to receiving funding from church grants is to define a specific area, or program focus, that will be sufficiently general to qualify for funding. It does not matter how big the church congregation is; even small rural churches with less than 100 members may qualify. While grants for new construction of church facilities are not generally available, there may be funding available for replacement of buildings damaged by natural disasters.
Private foundations such as the DeMoss Foundation, the Huntsman Foundation, the Mustard Seed Foundation and many others offer support on a national scale. Churches and religious organizations from any area may apply for funds. More local or regionalized community foundations also offer grants for churches. Again, these normally require a nonprofit component. There are usually specific areas within the foundations that will apply to grants for churches. As an example, the Huntsman Foundation supports grief counseling as part of their giving model.
New congregations seeking church grants should approach their governing boards about achieving nonprofit status early in the formation process, and perhaps consider training a volunteer or even a paid employee in the grant-writing field.