Creative Revenue Sources for the Externally Focused Church

(Originally published as an article within ECCU’s former e-publication, Ministry Banking Today.)

During tough economic times, many churches look for new kinds of funding for ministry programs. Grant funders can be great partners in ministry, adding their resources to the time and money provided by the members of your congregation.

This outside funding helps churches hire outreach staff and sponsor health clinics, housing programs, youth centers, and schools (among many other programs). If administrative or pastoral staff members of the church are working on community programs, then grants may even pay part of their salaries.

The following are six characteristics of church programs that are most likely to receive funding from a foundation or corporation. A church that can answer "Yes" to all or most of the items on this list has a better chance of successfully finding grants to help with its ministry efforts:

  1. The program benefits at least some people outside of your church congregation. Many foundations and corporations are sensitive to supporting programs that are targeted to an exclusive group of people. A proposal that benefits only church members or people in a particular denomination (or just Christians, for that matter) may struggle to secure grants. Foundations and corporations often work communitywide on key issues and want to see that as many people as possible have access to the services they fund.

  2. The program is not one of the core internal programs of your church. Many foundations and corporations will not support core internal ministry programs of a church, such as worship, spiritual formation, Sunday school, or pastoral care. From a funder's perspective, church members ought to be the ones who pay for services they use in a church setting.

  3. The church can separate out the spiritual component of the program or make it optional. It's important for you to be clear about whether spiritual outcomes are a key part of your vision and/or a key component of your program before you have a conversation with a funder who may not share your spiritual goals (For example: Will you require participants at your youth center to attend Bible study or worship services?).

  4. The program possesses clearly defined outcomes. What changes in the lives of your participants because of your program? Outcomes aren't just a list of the activities you deliver, such as the number of tutoring sessions offered each week or the number of doctor visits at the health clinic. Outcomes in these cases would be improved test scores or grade-point averages for students, or the successful early detection and treatment of health problems.

  5. The program possesses a well-developed plan. Spend time developing a clear plan for your program before you submit your proposal.

  6. The program works collaboratively with other organizations. Collaboration is a key trait that funders look for in grant applicants, and they will look to see if you have partnered with “key players” in your community. For example, if your church runs a job training and placement initiative, you might partner with a transitional housing program that can provide housing for your clients.

By keeping the above points in mind, your church may find grant support for its outreach efforts.

This article was excerpted from “Finding Funds” in the November/December issue of Your Church magazine. For more specifics on each of the six points mentioned above, click here to read this article in its entirety.

Get Connected