Grant Writing Tip Sheet
Lee Gagen provides suggestions and ideas for leaders looking to apply for grant opportunities.
Don’t overlook grants when seeking to support your mission and ministry
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
At this moment it is clear that there is a great amount of need throughout our country. As development professional, I am tasked with finding the resources that can address these needs and support of congregations, communities, and beyond. I lean on our endowments, I look to our major donors, and I count on annual giving to provide the necessary financial support. But you don’t need to be a professional to do this work. As pastors and leaders, I want to encourage you to open your eyes to the many other resources available to our congregations; specifically grant funding opportunities.
Speaking to colleagues throughout the UCC as well as our ecumenical partners, I have heard that grant funding is often overlooked as a means of support for a variety of reasons:
- A lack of experience writing grant proposals,
- a belief that there are a limited number of grants available to religious organizations, and
- simply not having enough time to write a proposal.
However, I am here to encourage you to invest the time to complete at least one grant proposal this year. In addition to the possibility of securing funding, this will give you the foundation you need for submitting subsequent proposals. It gets easier as you go.
To those of you who are in the “no experience” camp, I understand. I interviewed for my current position and was asked to talk about my background in grant writing. Well, I had none. However, I shared that I was willing to listen and learn from program staff. That is just what I did when submitting my first ever grant proposal which resulted in funding for five years of programming to support our clergy. If I can do it, you can!
We are blessed to have a variety of grant opportunities available through the United Church of Christ. In the Wisconsin Conference, congregations can apply for Catalyst Grants of up to $5,000 to support innovative ideas that expand the ministry and mission of a congregation. Apply for the next round of Catalyst Grants by March 31, 2021. More information at http://www.wcucc.org/catalyst. Several association level grants are also available – check out your association’s website.
The Conference also provides grants for Members-in-Discernment, Ministerial Assistance, and Clergy Student-Debt Reduction. You can learn more about those opportunities by contacting the Associate Conference Minister for your association.
The National Setting of the UCC offers grants that range from Ministry Education Scholarships to Leadership Development Scholarships to Program Grants. Please visit The UCC’s Scholarships and Grants page for more information (https://www.ucc.org/giving/ways-we-give/scholarships-grants/). While some deadlines have passed, use your time now to plan for the next cycle of grants. Others remain open: the Adese Fellowship (faith-based entrepreneurs, July 1), New & Renewing Congregations Grants (expand your congregation’s impact, Sept. 3), and Neighbors in Need Grants (service and justice programs, Sept. 30).
Additionally, be sure to look outside the United Church of Christ for grant opportunities. You might want to look at options like:
- Vital Worship Grant Program at Calvin College (https://worship.calvin.edu/grants/)
- Louisville Institute’s Pastoral Study Project Grants (https://louisville-institute.org/programs-grants-and-fellowships/grants/pastoral-study-project/)
- Some family foundations such as the Carpenter Foundation and its focus on LGBT programs can be an option (https://carpenterfoundation.us/)
- Some local community foundations many have grant criteria your congregation may fit
As you look at funding opportunities for your congregation, remember to seek out grants. Grants rarely cover all the expenses of an organization. But they can provide crucial support for innovative programs and projects that meet the criteria of funders beyond your immediate community.
In closing, I would like to share with you some great work being done through grant funding offered by the United Church of Christ. On June 1st 2020, the national officers freed up $2.6 million for pandemic relief to churches and Conferences — $1.5 million in loans and another $1.1 million in micro grants. The grants funded important work, such as mental health initiatives in the Indiana Kentucky Conference. (https://www.ucc.org/ucc_conference_recovery_grant_helps_support_clergy_mental_health_during_pandemic/)
Begin your own preparation for a grant application by asking, “what meaningful ministry or mission could we do?” A grant may just be the way to make that hope become a reality.
Yours in Faith,
Donor Development Specialist
Southern New England Conference UCC