Looking for Government Funding? Here’s How to Find Your ‘fit’

FEB 05, 2020

Government agencies – at every level – must manage dozens of jobs and tasks every year with no way to get them done all on their own. They end up seeking help outside their organizations.

That’s where funding for your non-profit agency can come in.

Helping government agencies accomplish their mission – and winning governmental funding for your agency in the process – can be a solid and steady source of revenue for nonprofits.

It can put your organization on a stable footing.

The opportunities are nearly boundless. There are literally thousands of federal, state and local government agencies seeking outside help at any given time.

Identifying your Governmental Funding Targets

However, the pursuit of government funding must be a highly targeted quest.

The key to winning a government grant or contract is gaining a deep understanding of the funding agency’s mission and molding your organization toward the funder’s task.

How can your organization help the funding agency accomplish its goals?

As a non-profit executive, it is your job to figure out how your agency can fit into the mission of a governmental funder.

In other words, how do you find your “fit?”

Start with Asking the Right Questions

Before plunging into a hunt for governmental dollars, consider the following questions to help you choose your path:

What is the agency’s funding cycle?

Some governments begin their fiscal years on July 1.

Others begin their fiscal year on October 1, or January 1 or April 1.

Knowing when a funder’s fiscal year begins is important because it can help you decide when to submit a bid or a request, and when you can expect to receive the funds.

What is the funding agency seeking to accomplish?

Most agencies have very specific missions.

When they look for outside help – whether from for-profit or non-profit agencies – they look for expertise and a track record that will help them meet their goals.

Here are some examples:

Is the agency trying to create jobs?

This is a key statistic that you often see associated with governmental construction projects.

Job creation is often touted by elected officials as a measurement of success. If your non-profit can help a funding agency create jobs, it will accrue to your advantage.

Is the funding agency seeking to foster economic development?

This mission is associated with job creation but has broader implications.

Economic development relates to the construction of factories, office buildings or retail centers, which helps improve a community’s tax base.

Here’s an example: Tourist development agencies often seek to “put heads in beds,” a metaphor for attracting visitors to stay in local hotels. If your non-profit can play a role in your community’s economic development, it might help you win funding.

Is the funding agency seeking to assist disadvantaged individuals or communities?

Government is often the last line of defense when it comes to protecting individuals with health issues, disabilities or problems stemming from chronic poverty.

Non-profits have a long track record of winning government funding for these efforts.

At the same time, it is also true that funders continually look for initiatives that do a better job tackling the issues of disadvantaged groups. If you can bring an innovative approach to the table, you just might catch the eye of a government funder.

Be Persistent When Working with the Government

Finally, remember that while government funding is allocated in annual cycles, many governmental agencies have multi-year planning horizons with programs and goals already in place for future funding.

You can have a great idea that fits a funder’s mission, but it might take several years before your idea fits into a funder’s budget.

If that’s the case, keep honing your approach and be persistent. It’s likely to pay off in the long run.

Joe Kilsheimer

Joe Kilsheimer is a former Mayor of Apopka, Fl and a journalist with more than 20 years of experience. Kilsheimer is currently a government affairs consultant and serves on the board for Sustainable Florida and the Friends of Lake Apopka.