How to Find the Right Funder for Your Program

The process of identifying a funder to support your Catholic program or ministry presents many challenges. The Catholic Funding Guide is a great place to start.

The process of identifying a funder who is likely to support your Catholic program or ministry may feel daunting. How do you find the right funder among thousands of possibilities? How do you ensure that the funding prospect will fund a faith-based organization?

The Catholic Funding Guide is a great place to start, with our database of more than 2,000 funders who are interested in supporting the Catholic Church, its ministries and social concerns. Before you begin your search process, let’s explore the various types of funders and processes to help you determine the best prospects for your organization.

Types of Grant-making Organizations

Within the broad scope of charitable giving, grant-making organizations range in size, scope, and purpose.  From a large private foundation like the Gates Foundation with $4 billion in annual giving, to your neighborhood Knights of Columbus organization who awards $1,000 scholarships, all of these entities are considered grant-making organizations. Establishing the right type and size of funder for your organization is a key step in the search process.

The Catholic Funding Guide provides access to these types of funders:

  • Foundations – Foundations comprise about 93% of all funders listed in the Catholic Funding Guide. Although many large foundations are listed in the Guide, most foundations are private, family foundations which are typically small organizations with limited or no staff. The public, community foundations found in the Guide usually prioritize or limit funding to their geographic region. More detailed information is publicly available for these  nonprofit charitable organizations through the IRS Form 990-PF .
  • Church-based funders – These organizations are often considered to be operating foundations since they are usually formed as a source of fundraising for their sponsored entity and may limit funding to a specific region or social issue. Examples would include a diocesan foundation created to support the diocese’s Catholic schools, or a national organization focusing on poverty or disaster relief. Since these organizations are typically considered ministries of the Catholic Church, they may not be required to follow the same IRS requirements as foundations, which may limit the amount of information available pertaining to their giving history.
  • Religious or fraternal organizations – These charitable organizations include those established by a religious order, a Catholic membership society, or foundations developed through Catholic healthcare systems. Funding opportunities from these organizations usually align with the charism and/or ministerial focus of the religious order or sponsor. These organizations are also typically considered ministries of the Catholic Church and may not be required to publicly file reports on their charitable giving with the IRS.
  • International funding agencies – Although the primary focus of the Catholic Funding Guide is U.S.-based funders, the Guide does provide a list of agencies with an international funding scope. Awareness of these agencies may be helpful when considering support for ministries abroad or for understanding the Catholic church’s coordination of charitable work based in Rome.

The unique advantage for beginning your search for funding with the Catholic Funding Guide is that all of the foundations listed in the Guide have been selected for inclusion based on their funding support for Catholic organizations and projects. The church-based, religious order, and/or fraternal organization funders are included in the Guide due to our relationship with the Catholic Church and Catholic philanthropists, and may not be found through other search engines.

3 Steps to Find Your “Mission Match”

Before you can conduct a customized search for your funding needs, you will need to determine three criteria that describe your funding need:


Area of interest – What type of project or program are you trying to fund? Examples include education, social services, housing, etc.


Population served – Does your program serve a specific segment of the population? Examples include the elderly, youth, families, women, etc.


Geographic region – Does your program serve a specific community or region? List the city, state or diocese where your program is making an impact.

Describing your funding need based on the above criteria will allow the search process in the Catholic Funding Guide to match you with potential funders that share in a similar mission.

See our tips on how to use the Catholic Funding Guide search tools.

Finding a Prospect with an Open Door

The Catholic Funding Guide provides a convenient filter to help you sort prospective funders based on their utilization of an “open” or “closed” process for funding requests.

  • Open process –By checking the “yes” box on the search filter “Accept Unsolicited Requests,” you can limit your search results to the funders with an open request process. If you are in need of funding in the next 12 to 24 months, this step will get you on track to collect more details for each funder’s application process. About 45% of all funders included in the Guide use an open process.
  • Closed process – Choosing “no” within the same filter will provide you with the list of funders who use an invitation-only process. These funders tend to be highly focused on specific causes or community issues and usually welcome a letter of introduction from your organization if your services match their area of interest. The “donor cultivation” process may take longer with this type of funder but the effort may result in a stronger partnership.

“I have a list of potential funders…now what?”

After you have narrowed down your list of funding prospects, consider these next steps on your pathway to funding:

  • Save your work – By clicking “Save this Search,” you can label and save the results of this search. This feature allows you to create multiple lists of funding prospects and store them in your customized Dashboard for future reference.
  • Review funder profiles – Each funder name in the list is linked to a corresponding “Funder Profile” which features the funder’s financials, grant history, focus areas, and request process. A complete list of previous grant awards and roster of board members is also available with many funder profiles. Explore the features of the “Funder Profile” page. 
  • Do your homework – Funder profiles often contain a link to the funder’s website, which will provide the most current information about the funder’s guidelines, timelines, or application process. Many funders use their online platforms and social media to promote the programs they are supporting, which give you a better idea of how your organization may fit within their grant portfolio. Some funders may not engage in self-promotion but their grantees may be happily sharing news about their grant awards. An internet search for news articles that include the funder’s name could provide those types of articles.
  • Plan your strategy – Based on all of your research, choose the funders that best align with your organization’s mission and have evidence of supporting similar programs. Carefully review all of their requirements and timelines before you begin the request process. If your organization has not received a grant from this funder in the past, be sure to submit your request as early as possible to allow the funder’s staff ample time to conduct their due diligence on your organization.

The Rewards of “Friend-raising”

For many nonprofit organizations, the process of searching and soliciting funders for grant awards seems like a burdensome task with no real promise of results. Adopting a mindset of “friend-raising” rather than “fundraising” will help you to realize the long-term benefits of building relationships.  Just as you are likely working for a nonprofit because you care about the common good, this motivation is shared by those working for Catholic philanthropists. Once a compelling need lands on a funder’s desk, it is not easily forgotten. If a funder is not able to respond with financial support, they may offer other valuable assistance, such as capacity building training, networking opportunities, or introductions to other funders.

The goal of the Catholic Funding Guide is to help you make connections and foster new partnerships within the Catholic philanthropic community, so that  all can contribute to the common good as one body of Christ. Thank you for being part of this community, and may God bless you in your service to others. 

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