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General Operating Support


General operating support covers the day-to-day costs of running your organization. These include office space, staff salaries, marketing materials, and other essentials. Technology, too, is sometimes considered in this category.


For the most part, organizations raise funds for general operating support from individuals, through annual appeals, and the like. Foundations and corporations tend to fund programs rather than give unrestricted grants. However, since an organization's general operations are necessary to enable a program to take place, they can -- and should -- be incorporated into almost all proposals. Overhead costs, including salary, administrative expenses, etc. range from 10 to 20 percent of program proposals.


Some questions to consider:

  • How will you support your organization's operations without relying on this funder?
  • Are you currently able to cover your costs?
  • Can your target audience fund your operations?
  • If not, are there special circumstances for why that group is not able to financially support these services?

Sometimes, funders that have a relationship with an organization and a history of supporting it will give a grant for general operating support. To seek a grant for this type of costs, you will need to explain how your organization is currently funded and how a grant fits with your needs.


General or project support?
Look at your programs and your organization's priorities, and assess which of your programs will translate into good proposals.

  • Do you have any discrete or special projects?
  • If not, are there parts of your program that can be formed into a fundable project?

As a general rule, foundations prefer to fund projects over providing general support; they want to be able to measure the effect of their dollars. Look for programs or services that will produce achievable, exciting, and measurable results.


Funding Trends

  • In 2001, Illinois funders gave 22 percent of their grants dollars to general support. Illinois funders exceed the national average of 16 percent.
  • General operating support grants tend to be smaller than those for specific projects or programs.
  • The majority of general support grants in 2001 went to organizations concerned with human services, arts, and health.
  • Support grants come primarily from private independent foundations, followed by corporate funders.