What happens if your charity is waiting on its 501(c)(3) status? You’ve sent the paperwork into the IRS, but you’re still waiting on your confirmation letter. Here’s what you need to know about applying for grants without a 501(c)(3).
For the most part, the answer is yes. The vast majority of funders targeting charitable organizations with their grants will require 501(c)(3) status. But, it depends on the foundation you’re applying to.
Most foundations (with the exception of some small, local foundations) will post application guidelines either on their website or a database like Candid’s Foundation Directory Online. And those guidelines will generally address the question about applying for grants without a 501(c)(3). We suggest you contact the foundation for more information. They may have some wiggle room, but more than likely they will require you to be registered as a 501(c)(3). You may also be able to apply under a partnering organization or fiscal sponsor, which you may have to prove through a letter of commitment from that organization.
Though they are few and far between, some foundations will make exceptions, so you can apply for grants without a 501(c)(3).
It’s also important to note that simply having 501(c)(3) status does not qualify your organization for grants. Many foundations will require three years of financials—and a proven track record of success. Unless they specifically offer start-up and capacity building funding, they will likely not want to be the first funder on board with a new nonprofit. We council most nonprofits to wait until they are at least three years old, with a strong track record and financials, to apply for grants. Otherwise, they may be wasting time and money trying.
Again, there are always exceptions, but it often pays to wait. Grants are extremely competitive. And brand new nonprofits without a track record will fall to the bottom of the pile.
Learn more about our grant writing services here.