Last week we focused on whether or not to apply for a government grant opportunity. This week, our focus is on making a decision to apply for foundation grant funding. As with government grants, the organization should always make sure that the funding opportunity is aligned with the mission of the organization.
One of the questions that I receive is whether or not an organization should apply for foundation funds. This question is especially relevant for faith-based organizations that have made a conscious decision not to accept government grand funds. Foundations are tax exempt organizations set up for principal purpose of making grants to organizations with a scientific, educational, cultural, religious or other charitable purpose (Foundation Center). When a foundation is formed by an individual or a group of people, they develop a mission statement and by-laws much the same as a nonprofit organization does. In these organizational documents, there are usually some guidelines about the types of organizations a foundation will support. Fortunately, organizations do not have to wade their way through these documents to figure out if they should apply to a given foundation or not.
Today, many foundations have websites that provide specific information and guidelines about the types of organizations they will fund, grant award amounts and directions to apply. Unfortunately, many foundations are small foundations—so small they do not have websites, staff or written guidelines. However, don’t give up on these foundations, they are often a good resource—use the information below to maximize working with all foundations.
Once you have identified a foundation funding source, or a board member suggests that you apply to the XYZ Foundation, begin by looking at the geographic area they support. For instance, if they indicate that they fund the mid-atlantic region, but you are located in Texas, it is probably not a good match. Next, what do they say they fund? If they fund education but your organization provides shelter to rescued animals, probably not a good fit. Now, if the foundation indicates that they fund education and your organization provides workforce development to unemployed veterans, they may be a good fit…you will need to determine how to relate your project to education. It is important to note that there are instances where a foundation indicates that they are interested in one field, but your research shows that they have only given one or two small grants in that area. Unfortunately, once formed, foundations are not required to give in a certain area or to a certain interest, as long as they give 5% of their assets over a rolling three year basis to nonprofit organizations.
It is always helpful to take a look at the list of 990 foundations to which you could apply for funding. These can be found for free at www.guidestar.org and will reveal all of the organizations that received funding, the amount of funding and for what purpose during the past year. This information can be invaluable as you make your decision about whether or not to seek funding.