The simple answer is "yes."
To be honest, most U.S. foundations and corporations give grants mainly to U.S.-based organizations - some of which provide services overseas.
A minority of grantmakers will give directly to international charities or NGOs. But these funders must conduct an equivalency determination in order to establish that the NGO is the equivalent of a U.S. public charity. This review process may be done by the foundation or the prospective grantee's counsel. Learn how foreign organizations can find U.S. grantmakers with our article, Where can I find information on grants to non-U.S. organizations?
Fiscal sponsorship is the easiest way for an NGO to receive grants from U.S. foundations. If your NGO has a long-term, close working relationship with a large nonprofit in a developed nation, you should start a discussion about fiscal sponsorship -- partnering with them so you can receive grants from U.S. organizations. It's not easy for a foreign nonprofit to secure a fiscal sponsor, but it is a possibility for some NGOs that have been in operation for multiple years and have a proven track record of success.
Finally, an NGO can itself apply for 501(c)(3) status from the IRS, or it can establish a "Friends of" organization, which also must be certified 501(c)(3). Note that "Friends of" charities are required by U.S. law to operate independently of the foreign organizations they support, and cannot be simply a "money conduit" to a foreign organization.
Examples include organizations such as American Friends of the Louvre, Friends of Foundation de France, and Friends of China Heritage Fund, as well as hundreds of other organizations which do not have names beginning with these two words, such as Doctors Without Borders or Médecins Sans Frontières.
A private foundation will prefer to give to a 501(c)(3) or a "Friends of" organization in order to avoid having to perform expenditure responsibility. Also, having 501(c)(3) status or a "Friends of" group is the only way an NGO can solicit tax-deductible charitable contributions from individual donors in the U.S., who cannot claim this benefit if they donate to most foreign organizations. Be aware that most states require individuals and organizations to register before soliciting contributions there.
Learn about fiscal sponsorship with our Knowledge Base Article, What is fiscal sponsorship? How do I find a fiscal sponsor?
Learn about obtaining your own 501(c)(3) status with our Knowledge Base Article, How do I start a nonprofit organization?
Please note, whichever way you choose, please follow the guidelines we outline in Introduction to Finding Grants -- look for funders who are interested in your activities and/or your country, as demonstrated by who they've given to previously and their stated guidelines.
Just 12% of international grant dollars from U.S. foundations went directly to organizations based in the country where programs were implemented. The remaining 88% was channeled through organizations based elsewhere.
Watch "How Do US Foundations Support Global Programs and Partners? New Data and Trends" to learn more.
Subject(s) International Relations
Have a question about this topic? Ask us!
Foundation Center's Ask Us service will answer your questions within one business day.Ask Us