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Discover Flexible Funding: Your Guide to Unrestricted Grants for Nonprofits

Unlock the potential of unrestricted grants with our guide, including application tips and links to 5 grant opportunities

Unrestricted grants are just one of many grant types available to nonprofits, but they could be the key to sustaining your organization in the long-term. In this blog post, we’ll explain what makes these grants an especially valuable source of funding. We’re sharing links to 5 unrestricted grants to kickstart your search, and some tips for your next grant application.

What is an unrestricted grant?

Unrestricted grants—sometimes called general operating grants—are monetary contributions from a funder that can be put towards the everyday work of your nonprofit organization. This could mean investing in new resources and outreach to grow, supplementing staff salaries for stability, or sustaining activities that are central to your nonprofit’s work.

The value of unrestricted grants for nonprofits comes from their open-ended nature; these grants allow for greater flexibility and freedom than grants intended for specific projects or programs.

It’s important to note that when funders offer this spending autonomy to your nonprofit, they’ll likely expect your organization to demonstrate a high degree of responsibility with recordkeeping and reporting. Evidence of your nonprofit’s beneficial work is essential for showing funders that you can use their unrestricted funding effectively.

Where can I find unrestricted grants for nonprofits?

We’ve put together a list of general operating or unrestricted grants, with a snapshot of their basic requirements and helpful links to their application information. Check out our list below - you might just find your nonprofit’s next funder.

The Knight Family Charitable Foundation Grant

  • Overview: Supports humanitarian/social issues, education and learning, music and arts, and conservation of U.S. habitat and species
  • Grant amount: Unspecified
  • Geography: USA
  • Eligible organizations: 501(c)(3)
  • Deadline(s): Rolling

The Folke H. Peterson Foundation Grant

  • Overview: Supports animal welfare causes
  • Grant amount: $5,000-$20,000
  • Geography: USA
  • Eligible organizations: 501(c)(3)
  • Deadline(s): July 1 - November 1

The Lawrence Foundation Grant

  • Overview: Supports environmental, human services, and disaster relief causes
  • Grant amount: $5,000-$10,000
  • Geography: Global, with preference for USA
  • Eligible organizations: 501(c)(3), Fiscally-sponsored organizations, International charitable organizations with a qualified domestic 501(c)(3) representative, Public schools and libraries
  • Deadline(s): April 30, October 31

Otter Tail Corporation Grant

  • **Overview: Supports health and human services, community/civic/cultural development, education, and environmental causes
  • Grant amount: Unspecified
  • Geography: AZ, GA, IL, MN, ND, SD
  • Eligible organizations: Public Charities, Public Nonprofit Educational Institutions, Private Nonprofit Education Institutions, Exempt Private Foundations, City/County/Government Subdivisions
  • Deadline(s): Rolling

The Otto Bremer Trust General Operations Grant

  • Overview: Supports basic needs, community asset building, health and wellbeing, and restorative and emergency services
  • Grant amount: $75,000+
  • Geography: MN, MT, ND, WI
  • Eligible organizations: 501(c)(3), Fiscally-sponsored organizations, Governmental entities
  • Deadline(s): June 1, August 6

What are the best practices for applying for unrestricted grants?

Here’s our list of quick tips for applying for unrestricted grants for nonprofits:

  • Provide plenty of data: Be sure to have concrete examples of your nonprofit’s track record in the community. Whether you’re sharing interviews and testimonials or charts and graphs, be sure to make a case for how your nonprofit makes a difference.
  • Cultivate relationships with past funders: Funders who have witnessed the long-term impact of your nonprofit’s work may be more inclined to offer an unrestricted grant.
  • Share defined goals and objectives: Be clear and transparent about the activities or tools you intend to fund with an unrestricted grant. It’s important to establish how all these day-to-day operations advance your organization’s overall mission.
  • Keep track of your achievements: If you successfully apply for general operating support, ensure you’re documenting impact metrics and fulfilling any reporting requirements so that you have a better chance of being approved for similar grants in the future.

Final Thoughts

The flexibility of general operations or unrestricted grants makes them a powerful funding source. By including evidence of your organization’s impact and productive uses of funding in your application, you’ll be well on your way to securing a grant that can guarantee the future of your nonprofit!

Cover Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

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