I receive several inquiries from private school leaders interested in how to find funding opportunities. Here’s my best advice on the topic.

Private schools—especially those with a specific religious affiliation—more than likely will find that their grant seeking is a bit more challenging than that of public schools. Most federal and state government programs and some private foundations will not fund schools that are affiliated with a specific religious denomination. On the other hand, there are some private funders who will fund only schools with specific religious denominations, although many private funders will support only public schools.

Private schools should consider developing partnerships with public school districts. Some federal grants that require public schools to be the “lead applicant” in a consortium of grant partners will allow private schools to be consortium members.

Usually, this means that the private school cannot be the recipient of actual grant funds but can, for example, allow its teachers to take part in professional development activities associated with a specific project. For more information about the participation of private school students and teachers in the programs and initiatives of the U.S. Department of Education, check the department’s Office of Non-Public Education.

I encourage private schools affiliated with specific religious denominations to look “within” first for grant opportunities. Does your own church have funding available for your school, or does the regional church office have funding available? The next step is to identify private donors and foundations that support activities related to your specific denomination.

An excellent resource for Catholic schools is The Catholic Funding Guide, edited by Kerry Robinson. This directory lists private foundations across the United States that fund Catholic activities, including education. For more information, check out the Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities Inc. (FADICA) web site.

There are some foundations that will fund private schools both with and without religious affiliation. A search of the Foundation Center database (found at your local Foundation Center library—see the center’s web site for a list of locations) will allow you to find those foundations in your state that will fund education in private schools, as long as the proposed project is a match with the funder’s interests.

As with any type of school (public or private) that is seeking funding, be sure to check the eligibility guidelines for the funder to determine if your private school is eligible to apply for and receive a grant. If the request for proposals or giving guidelines do not contain this information, contact the program officer to discuss your school’s eligibility before submitting a request for funding. This advice applies to both foundation and corporate support.

Private school leaders might have to look at individual donors as potential sources of funding for their schools, especially when grant opportunities are limited. Identify those individuals in your community who may have a vested interest in your school and what it is trying to accomplish—including, but not limited to, parents and alumni—and contact these individuals to discuss your needs and whether they are able to contribute toward meeting them.



Foundation Center