After the Internet, the second place to search for appropriate foundations is with a national or regional catalog of foundations. These catalogs are available from publishing houses, your regional association of grantmakers, and the Council on Foundations. Catalogs are often available on CD for interactive keyword searches.
Read such listings carefully, beginning with the focus of the foundation. Often, the catalog has an index of lists by program focus (children, the arts, environment, and so on) that you can use to target the list of appropriate funders for your organization.
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Next, look at each individual foundation's profile. First, read the purpose of the foundation; you want to make sure they share an interest in your project. You also want to check for hints about the best way to approach them. For instance, a foundation that has interests both in education and in environmental protection might be very interested in a summer-camp program that provides environmental education and experiences for young people.
Also, check the purpose statement to make sure that your project exactly fits their program interest. For instance, they might be listed as supporting education, but when you turn to the profile, you learn that their purpose is to strengthen community colleges in their region. Therefore, your program for a local high school is outside their area of interest and not a good fit.
Next, check for geographic priorities. If the foundation only makes local grants and your agency is on the other side of the state, cross its name off your list. If the foundation makes national grants, your project must have national importance if it is to be considered.
Next, look at the restrictions or limitations. Often, a listing contains one of three statements that should be used to eliminate the foundation from your list of prospects. The first two of these statements will say, “Grant funds are generally limited to charitable organizations already favorably known to the foundation,” or “Grant funds are committed.” Each of these statements means relatively the same thing — that the foundation is already working with established organizations and committing money to those organizations year after year.
The third statement you might see, “No unsolicited proposals considered,” means that if you can't meet in person with the foundation principals to generate excitement about your proposal prior to submitting it, you should scratch this foundation from your cold-call list.
In addition, most catalog lists of foundations provide a paragraph on what each foundation will not fund. Restricted funding might include some or all of the following:
Underwriting for special events/sponsorships
Grants to individuals
Travel or research grants
Finally, look at the range of grants and the typical grant size. This information is published in the catalog, but rarely in guidelines received directly from a foundation.
If the grants range from $500 to $10,000 but the typical grant size is $1,000, you will probably approach this funder only when you are at the end of a large fundraising effort or if you have a very small project.
Most foundations prefer not to be the sole funder on a project; they want to see that you are asking others to support the effort, too. Be sure to keep a list of all the foundations from which you are seeking funding and the status of your requests (e.g., pending, not yet requested, committed) both to guide your work and to share with potential funders.
Be strategic in your approach to foundations. Four or five well-targeted grants will serve you and your organization far better than one letter sent to 200 foundations. Expect to be able to narrow the broad field of prospects to about 10 percent. Then work that 10 percent with everything you have.