Community grants are those grants offered by, and for use within, a specified geographical area. They may cover a single city, or several counties. The term is also incorporated in the phrase “community block grants”, designating funds which have been received from a larger aggregator of funds, such as a state agency. These funds are targeted for the benefit of a single community or small group of communities, and are usually mission-specific.
Community grants are most often offered by small to medium-sized foundations with a specific focus. The funds often derive initially due to donations from local philanthropists in the form of bequests or from the sale of assets of a larger foundation that has either ceased to function, or spun off part of its original mission focus and created a new foundation.
There are also large funders, such as the United Way, that have local chapters. These local chapters publish RFP’s for community grants, and are quite dependent on local donors for the source of their funding. They may also receive a share of the national organization’s donor proceeds. In a sense, the national organization acts as a funding aggregator.
Since there is an emphasis on both receiving and granting funds in a relatively small area, community grants may have a very personal aspect. Donors may restrict the use of their funds to a single purpose, such as providing food boxes to the needy, animal rescue, or supporting local artists. Conversely, community foundations may access funds that started at the Federal level, and worked down through state agencies to local funders. They then apportion these funds to the local non-profits, in the form of local community grants.
Almost without exception, community grants require the grantee to be a non-profit organization.
The strict guidelines and oversight of compliance with IRS regulatory requirements provides a measure of protection for the community’s funds. Community grants are likely to be your neighbor’s money, and they will be much quicker to notice a problem than an impersonal government agency that is based hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
Community grant applications typically do not require the same excruciating level of detail required by Federal grants. There will still be a requirement for audited financials, a program budget, statement of need, etc. but the grant application may be limited to as few as five to ten pages. The downside to that is that your group may have a reviewing committee that knows your organization and its members well. This makes your community contacts much more important than they are when applying to a large impersonal national organization. You may find out about an RFP that is about to be released through a casual conversation at the coffee shop.
Community grant RFP’s are typically announced through the local print and broadcast media, but may be offered by invitation for program submissions, such as a letter of inquiry.