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Knowledge to build on.  
A Message to Grantseekers
     
Initial Questions
     
Beginning Your Research - Nonprofit Grantseekers
Basic Funding Research Strategies
If You Already Know the Name of a Foundation Prospect
     
Beginning Your Research - Individual Grantseekers
     
The Proposal Process
     
Information Resources
     
Glossary
Guide to Funding Research

Beginning Your Research - Nonprofit Grantseekers

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 prospective funder.

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 impression left 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.

"Once 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."

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