Since RFPs, or at least announcements of their availability, are generally sent to qualified applicants, it's likely that your clients or employer will identify these grant sources for you or that you've found an appropriate grant opportunity through the Foundation Center or Grants.gov. But when it comes to compiling lists of other fund sources for your own files, you have a big job ahead of you.
To find foundation and other grant sources, you must check catalogs, software databases, and the Internet. As you begin to build your own knowledge base by asking for guidelines for various projects, you might consider putting foundation sources and their focus in a file cabinet (or electronic file) for easy reference or constructing a database that allows you frequent review.
If you intend to write grant proposals as a full-time pursuit either as a contract writer or as part of your job, it would be wise to organize information about fund sources in ways that make sense to you. Then, block out time on your calendar for annual or biannual updates to files on funders. Foundations often review their program guidelines and change them without notice to potential grantees.
The Foundation Center lists many U.S. foundations and information about them. In addition, catalogs and CD databases of foundations are available through organizations called the Regional Associations of Grantmakers (RAGs). Different RAGs cover different regions of the United States. You'll have to pay a fee to get these resources from your RAG, but they are worth it when you consider the time it would take you to hunt down every source on the Internet, and when you want to zero in on funders that cover a specific geographic area.
RAGs publish catalogs that list only those foundations that are members of the organization. The listings contain the following information:
Name and address of foundation (usually in alphabetical order)
Purpose of the foundation
Limitations (what the foundation will not fund)
Fiscal year (the time in which the foundation must pay out its 5 percent)
Typical annual expenditures (includes grants and foundation operations)
Grants made in previous year by focus area
Range of grant funding
Deadlines for submission and/or decisions about grants (grant cycles)
Means of approach (letter of inquiry, request guidelines, submit full proposal, etc.)
Typical grant size
Officers and trustees
Following is an example of an entry in a RAG catalog.
P.O. Box 1
Somewhere, USA 123-456-7890
Contacts: John Doe, Foundation Manager
Donor(s): John Smith
Purpose and Activities: Support for health-care agencies, humanities, humanservice agencies, public benefit, and religious organizations.
Fiscal Year End: 12/31
Total Somewhere, USA
Number of Grants
Grant Range: $1,500–$15,000
Typical Grant Size: $3,500
Application Procedure: Initial approach with letter describing purpose of grant and tax-exempt status verification.
Funding Cycle: Grants made in January of each year.
Officers and Trustees: USA Bank
The RAG catalogs (which may also be published and cross-referenced in an interactive CD) include such additional information as lists by geographical area of giving or lists by subject-or focus-area for giving.
You'll also find lists from the Council on Foundations, or on special CD/DVD research programs, such as those published for universities or medical-research facilities that may be of use.
In some catalog entries, the foundation states that it “gives to preselected organizations only.” They are not open to reviewing unsolicited requests, so do not submit your grant proposals to them unless someone makes direct contact with the donor and has his or her permission to submit.
To narrow your search using a RAG catalog, refer first to their index of subjects or areas of interest. For instance, if your client or employer is a women's health service, refer to the index of grantmakers in medical research, mental health, or general health, and also to the index of foundations that focus on women's issues.
Next, refer back to the individual foundations listed in those subject areas. Look at their limitations. If a foundation generally limits its giving to a specific city or region that your agency is not a part of, cross that foundation off your list of possible prospects. If they are listed as giving to “preselected organizations only,” find out if your organization has any connection through friends, staff, or previous funding. If not, cross these foundations off your list, too.
Now, look at the range of grant funds and the allocation to health or women's issues to get an idea of what each foundation might do to assist financially. Look up the best prospects, in terms of shared focus and size of awards, on the Internet or by using the contact information. Then write to request guidelines from each of your final prospects, or, if possible, download guidelines from the Internet.
Once you have all the information about appropriate foundations and the size of the grants they tend to give, develop a plan for approaching them. Be sure to note such things as means of approach. (For instance, will you stress that your organization fills a health-care gap in your community or that it addresses critical women's health issues?) Also, note deadlines for submission and decision-making, and the amount you can or should request.
This sample guideline was developed by a Regional Association of Grantmakers (RAG) for use by any foundation within the geographical area of the RAG. Common grant applications generally have most of the same questions you will be asked to respond to in other foundation grant proposals; therefore, it's smart to do one of these first so you have text for subsequent proposals to other funders.
COMMON GRANT-APPLICATION FORMAT
1. Executive Summary
Begin with a half-page executive summary. Briefly explain why your agency is requesting this grant, what outcomes you hope to achieve, and how you will spend the funds if the grant is made.
2. Purpose of Grant
Statement of needs/problems to be addressed; description of target population and how they will benefit.
Description of project goals, measurable objectives, action plans, and statements as to whether this is a new or ongoing part of the sponsoring organization.
Timetable for implementation.
Who are the other partners in the project, and what are their roles?
Acknowledge similar existing projects or agencies, if any, and explain how your agency or proposal differs, and what effort will be made to work cooperatively.
Describe the active involvement of constituents in defining problems to be addressed, making policy, and planning the program.
Describe the qualifications of key staff and volunteers that will ensure the success of the program. Are there specific training needs for this project?
Long-term strategies for funding project at end of grant period.
Plans for evaluation, including how success will be defined and measured.
How evaluation results will be used and/or disseminated and, if appropriate, how the project will be replicated.
Describe the active involvement of constituents in evaluating the program.
4. Budget Narrative/Justification
Grant budget; use the Grant-Budget Format that follows, if appropriate.
On a separate sheet, show how each budget item relates to the project and how the budgeted amount was calculated.
List amounts requested of other foundations, corporations, and other funding sources to which this proposal has been submitted.
In the event that we are unable to meet your full request, please indicate priority items in the proposed grant budget.
5. Organization Information
Brief summary of organization's history.
Brief statement of organization's mission and goals.
Description of current programs, activities, and accomplishments.
Organizational chart, including board, staff, and volunteer involvement.
1. A copy of the current IRS determination letter indicating 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
2. List of Board of Directors with affiliations.
Organization's current annual operating budget, including expenses and revenue.
Most recent annual financial statement (independently audited, if available; if not available, attach Form 990).
4. Letters of support should verify project need and collaboration with other organizations. (Optional)
5. Annual report, if available.
INFORMATION INCLUDED IN A COMMON GRANT APPLICATION
Date of Application:
Legal name of organization applying:
(Should be same as on IRS determination letter and as supplied on IRS Form 990.)
Year Founded: Current Operating Budget: $
Executive Director: Phone Number:
Contact person/title/phone number
(if different from executive director):
Address (principal/administrative office):
Fax Number: E-mail Address:
List any previous support from this funder in the last 5 years:
Purpose of Grant (one sentence):
Dates of the Project: Amount Requested: $
Total Project Cost: $
Geographic Area Served:
Signature, Chairperson, Board of Directors Date
Typed Name and Title
Signature, Executive Director Date
Typed Name and Title
Below is a listing of standard budget items. Please provide the project budget in this format and in this order.
A. Organizational fiscal year:
B. Time period this budget covers:
C. For a CAPITAL request, substitute your format for listing expenses. These will likely include: architectural fees, land/building purchase, construction costs, and campaign expenses.
D. Expenses: include a description and the total amount for each of the budget categories, in this order:
E. Revenue: include a description and the total amount for each of the following budget categories, in this order; please indicate which sources of revenue are committed and which are pending.
You're finally ready to begin preparing your submissions. You should take the most complex proposal outline first. In it, you'll create responses to sections that you can use again and again on the other proposals, such things as the need statement, program description, evaluation plan, and other sections that only have to be tweaked slightly to fit the focus or emphasis of the other foundations.
As with RFPs, when applying for foundation funds, you must follow the instructions for submission (the outline contained in the guidelines) to the letter. Most foundations have established procedures for reviewing proposals and providing careful consideration by the right person at the foundation. If you deviate from their procedures or instructions, you may be harming your chances of getting the proposal to the right person.
Grant guidelines are issued by most larger foundations, and are available by request or by search. They contain critical information for framing your grant proposal, including the following:
Background/brief history of foundation
Categories for funding/focus areas, with brief descriptions of types of programs
Means of approach (such as letter of inquiry, meeting with funders, arrangement for site visit, full proposal requested)
General requirements for funding
Instructions for submission (outline of required sections)