Aligning with the organization’s mission, the Center for Congregations grant program is designed to help Indiana congregations fund and use the best resources to address their challenges and opportunities.
The grants program is one of the Center’s four primary services alongside resource consulting, education programs and the Congregational Resource Guide (CRG).
An Equity Grant is a matching grant of up to $15,000 for qualifying Indiana congregations to fund a variety of expenses, resources and activities. The Equity Grant program was designed to meet congregations where they are and acknowledge that the Center’s standard Resource Grant guidelines occasionally do not serve those impacted by systemic injustice and inequity.
Grants are made possible by a grant to the Center for Congregations from the Lilly Endowment Inc.
A congregation should meet three or more of the categories below:
- Congregation demonstrates financial need i.e., annual congregational budget under $100,000 and a lack of funding available from other sources such as denominational funds, tithe/offering revenue, donors, etc.
- The majority of congregants should be from one or more of the following:
- African American
- Southeast Asian
- Immigrant/Refugee group
- Other racial or ethnic minority groups
- Congregation is in a rural community (approximate population under 7,000 people)
- Congregation has an average attendance of <50 adults per weekly service
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of an Equity Grant?
The purpose is to increase your congregation’s capacity to accomplish a new goal. A resource grant needs a specific, focused topic. Multiple unrelated issues cannot be bundled in a single grant. The Center hopes that through a Resource Equity Grant, your congregation will experience an outside resource that raises your ability to accomplish a goal, ultimately furthering your congregation’s mission and values.
What do Equity Grants fund?
The Equity Grant program pays for related resources within a single project, such as software, architects, fundraising consultants, strategic planning consultants, attendance at educational workshops, and many other resources. A grant may fund more than one resource, but those resources must be thematically related and support the same project. The best way to find out if your project or idea is eligible for an Equity Grant is to contact a Center for Congregations resource consultant.
How much can we receive from an Equity Grant?
Equity Grants are 90/10 matching grants to pay for the cost of outside resources of up to $15,000. Your congregation may receive on Equity Grant per year. You have one year to raise your portion and complete the project.
Are we competing against others?
No, not in this program. However, the Center never guarantees a grant. All grants go through the process described in this document. You will be contacted as early as possible about grant eligibility and whether any particular item is not eligible for funding.
How often can we apply for a grant?
Your congregation can apply for and receive approval for one Equity Grant per calendar year (January – December). To start an Equity Grant application process, you need to have completed all final reports for any previous grants.
How long does a grant project last once funds are awarded?
Equity Grant funded activities need to be completed with a year of the date the grant is awarded. Of course, a project may take less than a year.
When can I start work with the funded resource?
This is an important question. Do not start work or sign a contract with a potentially fundable resource until your grant has been approved. You will often need a proposal or contract form from a chosen resource to complete the grant, but do not sign the contract or proposal to start the work until grant approval.
Do “in-kind” contributions, such as materials or volunteer labor, count for our part of the match?
No, your congregation’s match must be in dollars.
How does the Equity Grant process work?
There are six steps:
- Contact the Center for Congregations and speak with a resource consultant to arrange an appointment. If, after the conversation, your idea appears to fit the Equity Grant criteria, you will continue to the next step of the process.
- The resource consultant will give you the grant application form and discuss it with you.
- You will be asked to submit a draft of the application to your resource consultant.
- The resource consultant will review your draft and offer suggestions for strengthening the proposal. Steps 3 and 4 may be repeated a number of times. We encourage you to stay in touch with your resource consultant throughout this process. She or he will be happy to work with you to ensure a strong application.
- When your resource consultant deems the application ready for submission, you will be asked to submit a final copy with signatures and all supporting documents. Please note that the material must be received by the first day of the month in which you wish to have your grant application formally considered. Decisions on grants are made the third Tuesday of each month, except December.
- You will be informed of your grant status within two days of the grants committee meeting. An official letter of agreement will be issued. When the Center receives fully signed copies of that letter, the grant funds will be released to your congregation in the form of a check. The Center provides its portion in one lump sum at the beginning of the project’s year timeline. Your congregation has one year to raise your portion and complete the project.
How long does the application process take?
It depends on the nature of the grant. The Center will not rush a grant application to meet deadline. Your congregation will need to follow each step of the process. However, the Grants Committee meets every month except December, which is meant to encourage flexibility for the congregation.
Are there items an Equity Grant doesn’t fund?
Yes. Grant funds cannot be used for:
- Private parochial schools run by the congregation
- Computer hardware or audio/visual equipment, musical equipment, office equipment, office program supplies (e.g. staplers, paper, balloons, decorations, etc.)
- Salaries or payments to congregational staff members or potential staff members
- Hosting conferences or events targeted to the general public versus congregation members
- Printing, copies of media, advertising, postage
- Operating funds, capital expenses, fund drives (the grants do cover consultant fees to help raise funds)
- Resources connected to programs, like education events, for which your congregation will charge or receive a profit
- Annually recurring projects or expenses, such as Vacation Bible School and Sunday school curriculum, repeated attendance at a particular conference, annual music license fees
- Professional development that exclusively benefits staff
- Mission trips
- Current projects and/or projects previously paid for
- Other resources as determined by the Center
Is my congregation allowed to choose the resources for our grant?
Yes. Your congregation is best positioned to decide what will fit your needs. However, the Center does want to be in a resource consulting relationship with your congregation. After working with more than 4,600 congregations in Indiana, we have developed expertise in finding resources and making helpful recommendations. Nonetheless, it is ultimately your congregation’s decision which resources to use. It is important that the funded resource is not a staff member of your congregation. Other boundaries by the Center may apply. For example, there may be occasions when the Center not only recommends, but requires your congregation to seek bids from multiple vendors.
What follow-up grant reporting does the Center for Congregations require?
If your congregation receives an Equity Grant, you agree to send the Center of Congregations a quarterly report and a final report of your project within one year of the date the grant was awarded. The final report must include a complete financial report. All these reports are filed online. Reporting forms will be made available. We do not routinely require that your provide receipts of grant eligible expenses. However, the Center may request verification for all or a portion of your grant’s eligible expenses. Please note: Failure to submit an acceptable final report will jeopardize your congregation’s ability to be considered for future grants.
How can my congregation verify proof of IRS tax-exempt status in order to receive an Equity Grant?
Your congregation’s tax-exempt status is verified by providing one of the following:
- A copy of the IRS letter designating your congregation’s 501(c)(3) status;
- A copy of your denomination’s IRS group 501(c)(3) designator with an accompanying copy of your denominational directory listing your congregation;
- Confirmation of Nonprofit Status form.
Depending on which verification you use, the Center may require additional supporting material.
Please note: an Indiana Department of Revenue Sales Tax Exemption certificate does not meet the proof of tax-exempt status.