Conservation organizations may apply for and receive grants to help fund their conservation activities. There are two basic sources of grants: public agencies and private philanthropic charities such as foundations. Grant programs focus on specific topics such as land conservation, energy, or education. Grants are generally based upon an agreement to achieve a goal such as acquiring a specific piece of property, holding community meetings, developing a conservation plan for an area, implementing a restoration project or building a trail system. Generally grants are awarded for a specific project, although the funding from that one award may stretch across multiple years. After a grant proposal is submitted to the agency or foundation, there is a time delay before an organization is notified if it will receive the grant. Most granting agencies and foundations require grant recipients to submit updates of how the grant money is used and how the project is progressing.

Grants are awarded competitively; while they are an important source of funding, they are neither assured nor continuous. Grant-making priorities change, and the amount of money agencies and foundations have available to disburse through grants can be impacted by economic downturns. Most granting agencies do not allow the money to be used for stewardship, operations, or administration.