This guide provides local advocates and their community partners information on how to approach local public funders or, in more centralized states, state agencies who allocate funding to local areas, to discuss opportunities and changes in how dollars are used to meet the community needs. Many public funders tailor their resource allocation to the needs of a given community, adapting the spending as needs change over time. Their responsiveness to changing needs provides the community with an opportunity to influence the way dollars are spent at the local level.
As you work your way through this guide, you may choose to define partners as state agency or local branch as a state agency, or a nonprofit, for profit, or non-governmental organization. Consider which might make sense for you to approach based on the need you identify.
Another resource that may be helpful is the Blending and Braiding Toolkit, which examines how to develop successful blended and braided funding strategies and can increase your capacity for undertaking funding conversations with partners.
In challenging economic climates, nonprofits often find themselves facing dual challenges: an increased demand for services and decreased resources to provide services. These pressures can often lead to organizations straying from their mission as they seek funds wherever possible.
Developing and maintaining a diverse portfolio of funding partnerships, while not a guarantee of sustained fiscal support, provides a diversified base to support operations so organizations are not caught off guard when a funding stream is eliminated or changed.
Similarly, combining funding from multiple sources can help organizations weather changes in the political climate, allocation of resources, or changing needs in the local community.
Many different agencies in your local community and your state are “funders” of local services. Through federal, state, and local dollars, they support important services to help those in need. Some funders also have private dollars they give out as local grants. There are likely multiple funders to serve your organization’s issue area. You will need to identify which funders’ visions and goals align best with your proposal, target population, and service need. Funders often include:
- County government, such as county departments of health and human services or local economic development agencies
- State government agencies that allocate resources to local level services, such as departments of public health, human services, education, public safety, local affairs, transportation, and natural resources/environment
- Judicial districts, which include courts, probation offices
- Private foundations with a local geographic focus
- State level associations and groups
Public and private dollars can fund many different types of services, but each funding stream will have some combination of limitations on:
- Who can receive services;
- Who can deliver services;
- Which services are allowable; and
- When the services are allowed.
For this reason, you may need multiple funders to participate in funding a program to ensure it is available to the range of community members whose needs you want to meet.
This guide is not about how to pursue short-term grant funding, nor is it for those who are looking to create a new program to fill a community need. Rather, the focus of this guide is how organizations can develop funding partnerships to support and sustain locally-focused direct services.
Throughout this guide, we will look at services relating to teen pregnancy as a concrete example. It should be noted, however, that there is a wide range of direct services that are appropriate for this type of funding relationship, ranging from smart growth to workforce development to housing supports to diversion programs.