How to Find and Secure Grants for 501c6 Trade Associations

Business professionals discussing strategy for securing 501c6 grant funding

By: Micki Vandeloo

Trade associations have a unique nonprofit designation as a 501c6.  This is the IRS designation for a non-profit that is supported by membership fees, that exists to promote its members’ business interests without the goal of making a profit. In addition, no one shareholder can benefit financially from the organization’s income.  These organizations often have affiliated foundations, which typically hold the traditional 501c3 IRS designation.

As a 501c6, a trade association doesn’t have the wide variety of grants available to them that 501c3 organizations do.  That does not mean, however, that they can’t obtain grant funding either directly or in partnership with another qualifying organization.  For example, trade associations can often be part of a consortium for Department of Labor or Department of Education grants, as they can bridge the gap from employers to education.  They play a vital part in recruiting members that need workers and designing effective programs to provide workforce development to underserved populations.  Some federal programs, including the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, (due 8/1/22) allow employer associations, including trade associations, to apply directly for program development and capacity building activities.

Tips for Finding 501c6 Trade Association Grants

Looking to secure 501ct grant funding? Here is some advice for trade associations looking for grant funding to support their efforts:

  • Outline each of the projects you are seeking funding for and what the outcome will be (what will change as a result of your work). For each project, also note any partners that you are engaging with to help you execute the project (educational institutions, other associations, etc) and the approximate budget for each project.  This will be the starting point for your research.
  • Research grants on grants.gov (federal) and in the state you are headquartered in to see if you can directly apply to either for your listed projects. State funding for trade associations typically comes from the state’s economic development department.
  • Talk to your partners! They may be aware of grants to fund your partnership.
  • Talk to your members! Some companies offer grants through their company foundations that you may be able to access.
  • If your trade association has an affiliate foundation, consider searching for funding using that organization’s 501c3 filing information (found on the 501c3 designation letter from the IRS). Once you have identified grants for the foundation, see if any are a fit for your list of projects or for a partnership between you and the foundation.
  • Read each funding opportunity carefully, and engage partners and members as necessary to make your application the most competitive.
  • Sign up for email notifications from grants.gov from the Department of Labor, the Economic Development Administration (EDA), Department of Commerce and Department of Education. Many state economic development agencies also have a listserv that you can sign up for to get state opportunities as they are released.
  • Many trade associations (and their affiliate foundations) have a very lean staff. Consider partnering with a grant consulting firm to provide much needed resources to find and research grants.

We love our trade association clients, and are always looking to partner with more 501c6 trade associations and their affiliated foundations to find and get funding using our strategic approach. Reach out to our team to learn more about the opportunities available to you.

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