SOAR Voices


Demystifying Non-Government Funding for SOAR Programs!

**This blog is Part One of two articles focusing on funding SOAR programs. The first is focused on funding for SOAR programs operated by non-profit organizations, and the second will focus on SOAR activities operated by state or local government entities.

In order to develop and sustain SOAR programs, it is important to diversify and expand the funding base for SOAR programs operated by non-profit organizations.

First, it is critical to mention the importance of not “putting all of your eggs in one basket” when it comes to funding your program. I have provided technical assistance and support to hundreds of human service organizations and programs across the United States, and sadly many went out of business because they failed to diversify their funding sources.

When this happened the organization’s leaders had to think through ways to continue to provide services, inform stakeholders that they were closing their doors, and deal with the stress of informing staff that they no longer had jobs.

It is an unfortunate situation for the organizations and the people they served, but it is particularly unsettling because these situations could have been prevented.

In each and every situation, the organizations were doing good work in their communities, and in each situation it was not because the organizations failed on the "program" side of things or because they were irresponsible. They simply failed to plan ahead for funding fluctuations.

There are also a lot of great organizations doing great work with a small part of the population when the need is far greater. However, they have been unable to expand to meet the full needs of their communities.


Funding diversity does not necessarily mean only expanding focus to include foundations, corporate, or personal giving. There is funding available from different levels of government and successful programs attempt to access government funding more broadly. For example, if your program is mostly funded with federal funds (e.g., CABHI, PATH), then you could consider accessing local funding (i.e., state, county, and city) as well.

It is important to “think outside the box” even when thinking about government funding. For example, the State of Colorado has a State Income Tax Check-Off program, where people simply check a box on their state income tax returns and are able to very easily donate funds to support Colorado’s homeless service programs. In recent years, this program has netted over $100,000 towards Colorado’s Homeless Prevention Activities Program Fund.

With that said, most successful programs are able to successfully access non-government funding along with the government grants and/or contracts they have. The next part of this article will break down some of the other funding types.

Types of Non-Government Funding

Individual donations and major gifts

Most organizations reach out to individual donors through a combination of direct mail appeals, newsletters, social networking, and special events. To maintain ongoing individual donations, it is very important to develop relationships and maintain connections with your donors. Once you get new donors, work to strengthen their engagement with your nonprofit. The good news is that if your organization is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3), donors can take a tax deduction in return!

Online fundraising

There are a number of different ways that your program or organization can secure funds from donors online. Your website and email signatures should include a donate button (at a minimum) but the list of ways is endless. For helpful tips, view the 10 Online Fundraising Best Practices for Nonprofits from Nonprofit Tech for Good.

Corporate contributions

When considering accessing corporate donations, remember that there are many different ways that corporations can help support your organization - it is up to you to decide what will work the best for your situation. In addition to traditional corporate giving, some corporations have programs set up where they organize their employees to volunteer their time. Others have programs in place where they agree to match employee contributions to nonprofit causes up to a certain dollar amount. Corporations and local businesses can also help out with in-kind or non-monetary donations of supplies or services.

Foundation grants

A foundation is a non-governmental entity with a main purpose of making grants to organizations, institutions, or individuals for scientific, educational, cultural, religious, or other charitable purposes. Below is a general set of steps to be completed by non-profit organizations interested in accessing foundation funding:

Step 1: Identify a Need

Identify what you are trying to have funded. Is it for SOAR positions? Money for infrastructure?

  • What is the problem?
  • How does your plan address the problem?

Step 2: Identify Funding Sources

  • Who should you approach for funding?
  • How do I obtain information about potential funders?

There are many websites and online tools available. Both and give you the opportunity to search for foundations that are currently accepting funding proposals. However, why do it yourself when you don’t have to?! The SOAR TA Center is currently offering personalized foundation funding lists designed to meet your individualized needs! For more information, contact your SOAR TA Center Liaison.

Step 3: Develop Proposal

This part of the process will depend on the foundation grant you are applying for. The good news is that if you have never written a foundation proposal, you will be able to reuse much of the information you put into your first proposal for future opportunities.

Step 4: Submit Proposal

Remember, deadlines, deadlines, deadlines!

Step 5: Follow-up

While we can assume that you will get funded because you did your homework in the previous steps, remember, if you are not funded this time there is still something to gain. Most foundations have processes in place where unfunded projects have the ability to ask targeted quested related to why they were not funded. This means that you are able to learn from your mistakes and do better next time!


In closing, it is very important to remember that thinking about diversifying funding is a year-round job that should include involvement from all staff members. In addition, making sure that you are getting funding from multiple sources for your SOAR activities should be a central part of your program's strategic action plans.

Hope you enjoyed this article, be on the lookout for next month’s article focused on government-operated SOAR activities.

For more information, please contact your SOAR TA Center Liaison.


SOAR TA Center - Funding and Sustainability Tools and Resources

Foundation Center 

The views, opinions, and content expressed in SOAR Voices do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors.