Grants for faith-based organizations are available from both the Federal government and private foundations. In almost all cases, faith-based grants are only available to a non-profit component of the organization.
Small churches are often surprised to find that they are not automatically considered a non-profit. After all, they are a church or religious organization, so why would they not be eligible for faith-based grants?
The answer is found in the general requirements for a faith-based grant. Nearly all grantors require that the grant funds be used to benefit a wider segment of society than just the church’s immediate congregation. This is certainly true of government faith-based grants, since the government has to tread a very thin line between actively promoting one faith over another, as well as contending with separation of church and state issues.
Since religious organizations generally have a governing body whose sole focus is to promote their specific message, the key here is “faith-based”. By providing for a non-profit arm of the organization, the religious institution can both maintain the integrity of their specific message, while allowing the 501(c)(3) to apply for grants for churches that also serve a more general population.
Faith-based grants can be obtained for such diverse activities as after-school programs that serve low-income families, child-care for a minority population, education in finance for women, or meals for the aged or disabled. There may be faith-based grants available to purchase vehicles to transport people to court or to the doctor.
While there are no specific Federal building grants for churches, your non-profit affiliate may be able to access funds for construction of a community center. There are often restrictions that address how much of the time the building has to be available for general use by the community, but the building can also serve as a meeting hall for the congregation.
Many faith-based grants also have a matching component, sometimes only providing 25% of the funding needed for a project. Be sure to read the RFP carefully to be sure that you can provide the matching funds and meet the sustainability conditions of the grant.