Grants can be tough to get.It can be confusing to decide which kinds of grants to go after for your new, young, or small nonprofit.

Private foundations are plentiful and they’re easier to apply to. Government grants offer really large chunks of money. And corporations fall somewhere in between, with funding opportunities that you don’t want to ignore those.

So which ones should you go after?

It depends.

It depends on your nonprofit’s mission, your situation, your goals and your needs.

Here’s a quick-and-dirty explanation of private, corporate, and government grants.

Private foundations

Typically, I like to go after private foundation opportunities first.  They tend to be the easiest to apply for and the easiest to follow up on.  They’re also the easiest to build relationships with. If I can find someone on my organization’s Board who knows someone on the foundation Board, it helps so much to make that connection.  I’ve had great success in building relationships with private foundations that lasted for years and resulted in thousands of dollars for my organizations.

Private foundation grants aren’t hard to find. Start with the Foundation Center’s database at or see if they have an office in your area. Don’t forget about your local community foundation as you may be eligible for grants through them if they have an open grant process.

Corporate foundations

Next I go after corporate foundations.  These tend to give money to organizations with missions that are aligned with their business purpose.  These can fluctuate with the economy, but are still a great source of funding.

Start with the largest businesses in your area to see if any offer grants. Also check the home office of any franchises in your area. Sometimes large companies will only give out grants in communities where they have a facility or a presence.


Government grants tend to be much larger, but have more strings attached.  The applications are usually much more complicated and involve lots more work, but the payoff is really worth it in the size of the grant you can receive.The flip side is to be careful about getting and becoming dependent on really large government grants. If the government cuts their budget, your grant may go away and you’ll be scrambling to replace that funding on short notice.

Check out for detailed information on available government grants in the US.

A bit of preparation and research can help you find the best opportunities for your nonprofit.