Howto:Get funding for your organization

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There are many different funding opportunities available to large and small New York City not-for-profit organizations. Funding can come from private charities or foundations, government sources and individuals. Organizations that take a little time to think out a fundraising plan are more likely to be successful in receiving donations from these sources.


What You'll Need to Start

Before launching a fundraising campaign, groups should be able to clearly articulate the mission of their organization and assess their strengths and challenges in fulfilling it. It is also very important to define the goal of the fundraising “ask” and identify probable sources for funding.


1. Sell your organization to the donor

The first step is successfully selling your organization to a potential donor. You will need to be able to explain what your organization does well and what you need their financial help to achieve. These aims can be anything from hiring a staff person to increase your organization’s capacity for a specific task or procuring some sort of good or service to further the mission of your group.

2. Explain why you need the funds

Groups must be able to explain what they need the financial support for. Ideally, funds should be used to further the mission or goals of the organization. Donors will want to see a project budget that details how you would spend their contribution. If possible, the organization would be able to demonstrate in their project plan that they have the ability to contribute to the cost of the activity or project. It normally strengthens your proposal when you can show that you have some internal resources to dedicate to the project. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a monetary contribution, it can be staff or volunteer time.

3. Identify likely sources of funding

Organizations should work to identify likely sources of funding. Some neighborhood and community-based groups start by securing small grants from public sources such as local elected officials. Many officials may already know about the great work you are doing. If they don’t, invite them to a meeting or event to get to know your participants and see what you are all about.

  • Local, State and some Federal officials have access to discretionary grants for eligible not-for-profit organizations. Call your local Borough President, City Councilmember, State Assemblymember, State Senator, U.S. Congressmember or U.S. Senator for specific application information and deadlines.
  • Use the web! Go on-line to identify governmental or private philanthropies that support the kind of work you do.

4. Ask for the right thing

In researching possible funding it is very important to make sure you are asking for the right thing from the right entity at the right time. Do your homework to verify that the kind of organization you are and work that you do aligns with the donor organization’s giving priorities and criteria for making grants (see note). Make sure you are aware of their application process and deadlines.

5. Make your case

Make your case to the donor. This is your opportunity to explain the important role your organization serves in the community. It is also useful to explain how you intend to achieve measurable results and evaluate project impacts. All organizations, regardless of size, can do this to some degree. Start by describing the number of people served by your program or how many attended an event. Lastly explain the outcomes of the activity. Did attendance increase from one year to the next? Did you achieve a goal of decreasing a wait list for services or beautify a specific block or neighborhood?


Follow-up, say thank you and keep in touch! You should follow up with the funder after your proposal is submitted, especially if there is a notification date. Even if you don't receive funding, stay in touch with the funding organization by sending annual reports or updates throughout the year so they are aware of your good work. That way, when the next application cycle rolls around, you are already positioned to apply again.

Get help

Many funding entities require that a recipient organization have Federal IRS 501c3 charity status. Such organizations are also required to register with the NYS Attorney General’s Charities Bureau. Some exemptions apply. Click these links for more information:

The Manhattan Borough President’s Office website has information about various grant programs and a page featuring resources and help for not-for-profits. Follow the links below for more information:

NYC Department of Small Business Services

  • A SBS program called - Avenue NYC - provides funding for non-profit economic development organizations (local development corporations, merchants associations, BIDs) in all five boroughs to carry out commercial revitalization activities in the districts they serve:

Partnership for Parks

Citizens Committee for NYC

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