Unit 3: Finances
Unit 5. Finances

Section 3. Grants and Fundraising

Sources of Grants

Governments. Federal, state, county, or local governments receive and disperse public funds through a variety of mechanisms such as grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts. Most funds are for specific focus areas or categorical programs, like maternal and child health or rural health.

Private Foundations. These are nongovernmental, nonprofit organizations with an endowment that is usually managed by their own trustees or directors. Money for foundation grants is donated from a single source, such as an individual, family, or corporation.

Corporations. Company-sponsored foundations or private foundations have assets derived primarily from the contributions of a for-profit business. Although they may maintain close ties with the parent company, they are independent organizations with their own endowments. Corporate giving programs are grantmaking programs established and administered within a for-profit business organization. Some companies make charitable contributions through both a corporate giving program and a company-sponsored foundation.

Community Foundations. These are similar to private foundations, except their funds are derived from many donors rather than from a single source. Community foundations are usually classified under the tax code as public charities 501(c)(3) and are subject to different rules and regulations than those that govern private foundations.

Public Charities. These are public foundations that primarily operate grant programs benefiting unrelated organizations or individuals as one of their primary purposes. They represent the largest share of active 501(c)(3) organizations. 

Examples of funding opportunities from each of these sources is included under subsequent topics in this section.

If you've gone through your financial-planning process and identified where you need to seek additional funds, you next need to identify potential funding sources. Look through your budget to see where you have items that could be the basis for grant proposals, and develop a plan for securing grants.

Funders usually are clear about what they will fund and what they won't support. For instance, some may fund construction and equipment costs, others prefer to fund personnel and supplies, and some may fund support services such as case management or transportation stipends. An important but challenging step is trying to match funding opportunities with your funding needs.

Tips for Finding Grants
Start your search locally. View the websites of your state's primary care association, rural health association, health department, grants.gov, and other umbrella agencies to identify funding sources in your area and funders who are interested in health. These organizations will track and publicize funding opportunities via newsletters, websites or e-mail lists. Don't limit your search to those who say they fund oral health, as this significantly limits your opportunities. Part of your challenge is to educate funders that oral health is an integral part of overall health, and programs that improve oral health should be eligible for health funding. Don't forget to consider local chapters of United Way as well as faith-based organizations.

Government Funding

States differ in the type and amount of funding they have available for clinic programs. State health departments generally receive federal block grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA’s) Maternal and Child Health Bureau. A majority of states use at least some of these monies to help fund community-based oral health programs and clinical services to improve the health of mothers and children through grants or contracts.

Some states also receive Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant monies or other grant monies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To determine what funding might be available in your state, contact the state dental director or state department of public health. Examples of other state and local government funding opportunities include community development block grants, specific grants through Medicaid agencies and other divisions within government, and local tax levies.Oral health activities and services related to tobacco cessation and control or treatment for tobacco-related illnesses can be funded through various state investments. Excise taxes (for example, on smokeless tobacco) are another source of program funding in some states. In addition, some states appropriate money from their general revenues to support tobacco-prevention and -control programs. For example, California allocates money from tobacco taxes to fund programs for infants and children from birth through age 5 and their families through county commission grants to community groups. Millions of dollars have been awarded through this mechanism for oral health and oral health access programs, including clinical services.

Federal Funding
Applying for federal funding directly for your clinic program, other than through BPHC, probably will not yield substantial resources for your clinic, and certainly not in a timely manner. There are, however, a number of websites that will help you identify potential federal funding resources:

  • Grants.gov: Find and apply for federal government grants.
  • Get Ready for Grants Management: Find grant funding and management information for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA): This agency traditionally has been a good source of funding for oral health programs in state and community-based programs. HRSA posts its discretionary grant programs broken down by its six individual bureaus for each fiscal year on its HRSA Funding Opportunities web page. The page also lists and explains common grant terminology and provides answers to frequently asked questions.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Find and apply for CDC grants, although CDC generally doesn’t provide funding related to access to oral health care. Many state health departments receive CDC funding, however, and may have programs that benefit safety net dental clinics, especially in terms of health-promotion and disease-prevention efforts.
  • Indian Health Service (IHS): This agency provides funding and support to tribal oral health programs as well as Clinical and Preventive Support Centers.
    Most federal agencies now require electronic submission of grants, so it is important to leave enough lead time to become familiar with the electronic systems and requirements and to remedy problems that you might encounter.

Foundation Funding

Foundations have initiated a variety of strategies that address access to and financing of oral health services, including multifaceted strategies, support of direct services, education and outreach, fluoridation, research, and policy analysis.

The Foundation Center has information on private, community, and corporate foundations, direct corporate giving programs, and grantmaking public charities in its database. Tools online provide basic information about grantmakers and allow you to:

  • Search by grantmaker name, including former, partial, and common names
  • Search by geography to identify grantmakers in a given city, state, or zip code
  • Search by employer identification number

Updated continuously, Foundation Directory Online includes details on more than 91,000 funders and over 1.2 million recent grants. Five subscription plans are available for a monthly subscription fee. Online tutorials and an extensive selection of other resources are available on the website, and free resources can be found in its five regional library learning centers and its national network of more than 340 cooperating collections.

Conversion of traditional nonprofit hospital and health facilities to for-profit status has had a substantial impact on the field of health care delivery and on philanthropy. A number of these new conversion foundations are now among the largest U.S. philanthropies. Dental insurance companies (such as Delta Dental) or managed health care companies (such as Blue Cross Blue Shield and Kaiser Permanente) may be required by their charters or by state or federal law to donate a portion of their revenue to charitable or public service types of projects.

The Washington Dental Service Foundation is an example of one Delta Dental plan that has used its revenue to support a variety of oral health activities.

Corporate Funding

A number of insurance, pharmaceutical, dental manufacturing, and other types of companies provide certain types of funding, sometimes in a specific geographic area. Learn what corporations sponsor health activities in your area.

Ronald McDonald House Charities provide funds for mobile care vans, including those that provide oral health services.

Johnson and Johnson awards grants to health, education, and human services organizations that develop innovative health care programs for medically underserved communities in selected areas.

Member companies of the Dental Trade Alliance work in partnership with Oral Health America, a nonprofit public benefit corporation, to sponsor various national oral health initiatives.

Dental manufacturers and suppliers, like Henry Schein Dental, as well as ADA have established foundations for giving. State philanthropic organizations provide grant opportunities as well.