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Knowledge Base

Where can I find emergency funding for my nonprofit?

Even with a clear fundraising plan in place, nonprofits sometimes can find themselves temporarily short of cash, due to unforeseen circumstances like disasters or delays in payments. 

Foundation Center does not provide grants, recommend specific funders, or approach them on your behalf, but we can point you to resources to find possible funders and useful advice.

Here are some tips from consultants Tom Triplett and Alexis Cress:

  • All hands on deck. Reach out to your former and current donors, suppliers, board members, and clients, through as many channels as possible (email, social media, web, phone, etc.). Tell them your situation, and ask them for help. Ask your board members to reach out to their contacts.
  • Increase earned income. Raise prices on good/services. Sell "backroom" services that your nonprofit can provide for others, like office space, human resources, accounting, fiscal sponsorship, or consulting.
  • Ask about discretionary funds. Some foundations allow senior staff to make small grants without having to go through the usual full application process. Call each of your current funders to see if this possibility exists.
  • Ask about emergency loan/grant programs. Call your local United Way or community foundation. Also try searching FDO under ADVANCED SEARCH AND FILTERS by typing EMERGENCY FUNDS in the SUPPORT STRATEGY box.  If you are not a subscriber to FDO, search for free at any Funding Information Network partner to learn if such funds exist in your area. Lastly, the Arts Loan Fund (ALF), gives nonprofits low-interest loans for sudden cash flow needs like bridge funding, upfront capital for a fundraiser or performance, facility renovation, or debt consolidation.

Key points to remember:

  • Use several methods to raise cash.
  • Ask your current donors for help, and ask them to share your appeal with their networks.
  • Give thanks and status updates to your supporters frequently.
  • Revisit your organization's finances - lower expenses, increase income, tweak business models, etc. - and communicate your new plans to your supporters to show how your organization will avoid cash flow problems in the future.

In her newsletter Seeking Grant Money Today, Arlene M. Spencer also offers advice to nonprofits on finding Emergency Grants.

For more information, see our related Knowledge Base articles:

- How much should my nonprofit have in its operating reserve?

- Where can I learn more about fundraising planning?

- What's the difference between contingency and scenario planning? Where can I learn more about these topics?

- What is Risk Management? 

Selected resources below may also help.

Web Sites

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Books and Articles

Check title availability at our libraries and Funding Information Network locations or your local libraries.

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