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Can religious or faith-based organizations apply for foundation grants?

The simple answer is yes. Foundations prefer to give to applicants with 501(c)(3) exempt status, and churches (used here in a generic sense to mean a place of worship, including mosques and synagogues, for example) and faith-based organizations generally qualify for 501(c)(3) status. 

However, foundations vary in their giving interests. Even those that give to faith-based organizations vary in the types of projects they will or will not support. Some will require projects to benefit the larger community beyond the church's membership while others will not.

Thus, read each foundation's eligibility guidelines carefully to determine if it is a good match for your project and overall mission. Learn more about how to find grants for charitable projects.

Does your church need 501(c)(3) status?

According to the IRS, churches (used here in a generic sense to mean a place of worship, including mosques and synagogues, for example) that meet the requirements of IRC section 501(c)(3) are automatically considered tax exempt and are not required to apply for and obtain recognition of tax-exempt status from the IRS.

However, getting "official" 501(c)(3) status -- that is, being listed in IRS Publication 78 and having a 501(c)(3) determination letter on file -- can assure church leaders, members, and prospective and current donors that the church is recognized as exempt. This can help a church qualify for more foundation grant opportunities, as well as other related tax benefits, like exemption from certain state and local taxes, and ability to guarantee that all contributions, including tithes and offerings, are tax-deductible to donors. 

A church with a parent organization may wish to contact the parent to see if it has a group ruling. If it does, and the church is on its group list, then the IRS may already recognize the church as tax exempt. An organization that is not covered under a group ruling should contact its parent organization to see if it is eligible to be included in the parent’s application for the group ruling.

Selected resources below may also be helpful.

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Books and Articles

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