Tracks to Success
Economic Recovery: A Look at Government Support for Grassroots Nonprofits

Joel Terwilliger, Government Development Specialist, GrantStation

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The Backdrop

Almost $745 billion has been paid out since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was passed into law in February 2009. This unprecedented effort – to jumpstart the economy, create or save millions of jobs, and address long-neglected challenges in order for the U.S. to thrive in the 21st century – was an extraordinary response to combat the crisis some are calling the “Great Recession”.

The Recovery Act came with substantial changes in how government conducts business, which included an influx of “lean practices”, transparency and accountability measures, and realignments to focus government functions to core capabilities. However, it was clear that this wasn’t enough. Long-term solutions to some of America’s most persistent and complex social and economic challenges required an approach that leveraged the social capital and infrastructure of the nation’s grassroots community organizations by building bridges between these nonprofit groups and government.

In the spirit of engaging community groups as an integral part of economic recovery and poverty reduction efforts, the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (the Office) worked within government to ensure a role for these groups in the grant opportunities created by the Recovery Act. Today the Office continues to advance its number one policy goal: Strengthening the Role of Community Organizations in the Economic Recovery. Advancing this goal involves the Office making sure that community organizations are aware of grant opportunities that may be relevant to them throughout the Federal government. 

Complementary to the Recovery Act and White House policy, the signing of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009 placed an emphasis on expanding national service (volunteerism) and building the capacity of local nonprofits and their communities to target resources on and develop innovative approaches to the nation’s pressing problems. It is interesting to note that national data indicate that people are now volunteering now more than ever, with over 62.8 million volunteers on record nationally for 2010. And more Americans volunteer through faith-based organizations than any other kind of organization.

The Office continues to work to identify ways to promote fiscal and civic partnerships between government (at all levels) and nonprofit organizations, both faith-based and secular, in order to address the gaps in services that government resources alone cannot fill.

An example of this strategy in action is the Social Innovation Fund, a public-private collaboration created by the Serve America Act, which is designed to create new knowledge about how to solve social challenges in the areas of economic opportunity, youth development and school support, and healthy futures, and to improve our nation’s problem-solving infrastructure in low-income communities.

Setting the Stage for Continued Momentum

Faith-based and community organizations are in a unique position to inform the direction of Federal policies/priorities because they have access to vital information regarding key national issues at the grassroots level. This “street-smart” intelligence makes these organizations the perfect conduit for integrating national, regional, and statewide initiatives at the scale appropriate for their local neighborhoods.

It is also worth noting that the nonprofit community is a great deal more agile and can respond much more quickly to immediate local needs than government bodies. Because processes move so slowly at the Federal level, it is crucial for the government to partner with local organizations that can respond to a call to action/call to service and mobilize community members for a measured, timely response.

So while many challenges remain, this is a time of increased opportunities for local nonprofits to not only have a greater voice in the shaping of government efforts to serve Americans in greatest need, but also to play a larger role in the implementation of these efforts on the ground. In Part Two of this discussion, we’ll talk about the current focus areas of the recovery, government resources for local nonprofits, tips on how to position your organization to receive government funds, and how GrantStation can help.

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The sample Federal grant proposals below were generously provided courtesy of Florence Green, Co-Founder and Vice President of IdeaEncore Network, an information resource exchange, exclusively for nonprofit organizations, that saves organizations time and money. You can find and share resources of all kinds - both for free and for sale. There is no fee to browse or download free, publicly available materials. These samples are examples of the government fundraising / fund development content you can find on IdeaEncore and use immediately.

White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Corporation for National and Community Service

Department of Education

Department of Housing and Urban Development


GrantStation has just launched the Faith-Based and Community Organizations Federal Resource Area, a compilation of a variety of Federal resources for nonprofits (i.e., training and technical assistance, capacity-building tools, resource guides, etc.) that Members can access under the Federal Grants & Loans section on the GrantStation website.

Not a Member? Call 877-784-7268 or email info@grantstation.com today for information on how GrantStation’s resources and tools can help your organization’s fundraising efforts.


Other articles in this series:
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Part 1
Part 2


This article was edited by Julie Kaufman. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, useful tips, or are interested in writing a series for us, please email our Research team, or call our toll-free number: 877-784-7268.