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Person Explaining Nonprofit Government Grant Applications

Nonprofit Government Grants and How to Apply for Them


Every year, federal and state governments offer various grants to nonprofit organizations. A significant award can be yours if you know where to look and how to write winning applications for nonprofit government grants.

Being awarded a government grant for your new or existing nonprofit organization is competitive due to the substantial sum of the awards — from $500,000 to millions of dollars. Accompanying these high-value grants is a set of expectations from the government. They require adherence to specific rules and regulations and positive performance of the organization.

Here, we provide an overview of which types of nonprofits are eligible for government grants, how to effectively apply for grants and the three categories of government grants.

Government Grants for Nonprofit Organizations: Who Is Eligible?

Two things your nonprofit must do before applying for a nonprofit government grant is register at the website to learn what grants your nonprofit is eligible for.

You will find the eligibility categories on the Grant Eligibility page of the website.

Two types of nonprofit organizations that are generally eligible for government grants are:

  • IRS-501(c)(3)-status organizations (excluding higher-education organizations)
  • Nonprofits without an IRS 501(c)(3) designation

Additional types of organizations that are generally eligible to apply are:


  • State governments
  • County governments
  • Local governments
  • Special district governments
  • Native American tribal governments


  • Public schools
  • Independent school districts
  • State systems of higher education
  • Private institutions of higher education


  • Public housing authorities
  • Native American Indian housing authorities

How to Get Government Grants for Nonprofits in 6 Steps

Once you have determined that your nonprofit is eligible for a grant, you must ensure your organization is willing and able to fulfill your responsibilities in connection with a particular grant. After that, you can follow these six steps:

  1. Check out the Grants Learning Center to get acquainted with the government grant process and get updated information.
  2. Search for grants that align with your nonprofit’s mission on the Search Grants webpage at Click on the links of the grants you are interested in and read all the information carefully.
  3. Apply for a Unique Entity ID (UEI) with the System for Award Management (SAM) and register your nonprofit to do business with the federal government. Go to to get your UEI number. Note that this is a new system that replaces the prior DUNS number system. It generally takes three to five business days to get your UEI number, but it could take up to two weeks. You will need to renew your SAM registration every year.
  4. Register with Fill out the fields online, confirm your email address, and add your organization’s applicant profile.
  5. Watch the video, “How to Create a Workspace” to learn how to set up a workspace to apply for your grant. It gives you all the pertinent details about how to complete and submit a government nonprofit application.
  6. Track the status of your application. You can enter up to five tracking numbers to find your government grant application status.

Additional Tip: It may be worthwhile to hire a grant writer to assist with writing your application.

Writing a grant is generally complex and time-consuming. Considering your nonprofit will have lots of competition for funds, take your time and complete the application as thoroughly and completely as possible.

Nonprofit boards should also be aware that funding changes yearly depending on the allotments in the federal budget. Allocations can change based on the political environment and national concerns, so it’s important to remember to check annually.

3 Types of Nonprofit Government Grants

What are government grants available for nonprofit organizations? The federal government classifies government grants in three ways. They offer formula grants, project grants, and matching grants.

Formula Grants

The federal government distributes funds to state and local governments based on specific criteria. These grants are called formula grants. For example, the federal government gives a certain number of dollars to every student in each state. States can use these funds for various needs, such as education, road construction or improvements, and block grants. While formula grants are not competitive, federal or state agencies may require an application or formal request to access the funds.

Project Grants

Much as it sounds, project grants supply funds for specific projects and services that address a particular policy need. The available project grants change from one year to the next. The Federal Pell Grant is an example of a longstanding project grant. Specific project grants may also be available through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Matching Grants

Matching grants work differently than formula or project grants, requiring nonprofits to contribute to their project. For example, it may require a nonprofit to have a cash reserve allocated toward a project; then, the government will match the funds.


Applying for government grants for nonprofit businesses is a worthwhile venture. As mentioned above, it’s important to remember that obtaining government nonprofit grants is highly competitive. It’s essential to follow each step and review your application carefully before submission.

Overall, government grants take more than a bit of work on your nonprofit’s part, but a government grant can go a long way toward assisting your nonprofit in fulfilling its mission.

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