How Two Churches Found Grants for Ministry
Church leaders discuss ins and outs of grants.
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Grace Fellowship Community Church

Grace Urban Ministries (GUM), a nonprofit connected to Grace Fellowship Community Church in San Francisco, partners with churches to provide services to families and children in the Mission District of the city and surrounding neighborhoods. GUM's programs include an educational mentoring program for youth, a citywide health fair, and skills training for parents and other adults.

Like Park Avenue, GUM also successfully secures grants for programs. But it has turned down funding at times in order to structure programs in a way that meets the organization's values.

For example, a skill-building program for adults called Kaleo is very "relational and organic," rather than "structured and programmatic," according to Craig Wong, GUM's executive director.

The program is flexible, changing from week to week to respond to the needs of participants. Often, more time is spent developing relationships than delivering services, which presents a problem for some funders, since they tend to support programs that deliver concrete, measurable outcomes.

But too much focus on outcomes and results can create tensions that GUM doesn't want, Wong says.

"We don't want the heart of our tutoring program to be driven by results," he says. "We want to focus more on loving children and embracing them as family, not being results-driven." As a result, GUM receives more of its funding from small family foundations in the area that focus less on measurements and outcomes.

Wong says grants have given GUM an opportunity for Christian witness through its relationships with secular foundations.

"We bring a prophetic word and presence to people with resources," he says, "bringing insight about how to respond to impoverished communities and to immigrants."

But like PAYFS, grants also bring drawbacks, including cyclical ups-and-downs.

"You can have a great grant year and then a horrible one," he says. This underscores the need for ministry leaders to maintain balance between individual donor support, church gifts, and grants.

"It's important to speak to funders with absolute candor and to be free with whatever the outcome is," Wong concludes. "We need to practice fundraising in a way that nurtures our dependence on God, trusting that all we need to be His witnesses will be provided. We shouldn't look at foundation funding as what will make or break our witness to the world."

Joy Skjegstad is a speaker and consultant on nonprofit management and ministry development. She is the author of Winning Grants to Strengthen Your Ministry (Alban Institute, 2007).

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

November 6, 2009

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