You will want to use Foundation Center
and other resources to compile a list of foundations that appear most
likely to support your organization or your project. Choose prospective
funders by examining their descriptive profiles and recent giving
histories. Foundations that have already
supported projects similar to yours, those that award the type of
support you seek, and/or those in your geographic area and of course
those with which someone on your board has an affiliation should be
considered for your prospect list.
To help you match your nonprofit's needs with the interests of a potential funder, see the Prospect Worksheet.
Feel free to print or download this worksheet for your own use. After
you have answered the questions about your own organization, you may
wish to make several copies of the worksheet and use one for each
The next step is to research carefully and exhaustively the funders you've
identified. To research foundation giving patterns and trends, some of
the best sources are: annual reports, IRS returns (IRS Form 990-PF), and printed guidelines. Remember, funding research is hard work; it takes time, but it always pays off.
Here's some expert advice from Ilene Mack, Senior Program Officer at the William Randolph Hearst Foundation:
"I would suggest that the very first step and one that is most
important prior to writing anything is doing research on the foundation
you wish to approach. The buzzword is homework. Do it well and
thoroughly. It is more efficient and in the end more beneficial to send
appropriate requests to
fewer organizations than to send a shower of appeals in the hopes that
one may land in the right place. While you may not receive an approval
or even a hearing on the first attempt, if the appeal has been well
thought out and is indeed within the guidelines of the foundation, the
is a positive one and the next time you try, you may be more
successful. Obviously, there are no guarantees, and since there are
always many more appeals sent than resources to fill the need, a
majority are turned down.
you have determined that you are sending your appeal to an interested
party, make sure the form of your approach is correct. Many foundations
prefer a phone call or a letter of inquiry as the first step. Others
want a full proposal
with all required documentation.
"At the risk of repeating myself: homework, groundwork, research; whatever
you wish to call it, do it. It saves time and paperwork and ultimately
will produce more positive than negative results.
"The relationship between grantee and grantor is mutual. It should be and I
hope is, more often than not, a relationship of respect and
responsibility. It is our responsibility to read and review requests
with an open mind, making fair
judgments without being judgmental. On your part, the responsibility is
to have done the research and presented a thoughtfully written appeal."