Fundraising from Foundations

April 1, 2022   |   Fundraising

In 2020, according to Giving USA, foundations giving had increased the fastest amongst philanthropy sources to reach 19% of total giving. Foundations vary in size, revenue source (individual, family, corporate, community) and focus (general or specific purposes). Some foundations also operate their own programs.

As with other donors, when it comes to approaching a foundation for funding, finding alignment and cultivating relationships are key. Sometimes it’s one person making all the decisions and that person is also the donor, sometimes it’s a board of trustees weighing in on grants approvals, sometimes there are subject matter experts helping guide the process. Foundations can also be part of collectives designed to pull funding for a specific cause and in parallel some foundations might fund specific projects through one channel, one nonprofit that will rally other actors in the field.

When it comes to developing a proposal for a foundation, it’s really important to keep the lines of communications open. There can be many rounds in addition to the traditional cycle of submitting a letter of inquiry and then a proposal. Some funders prefer to co-develop proposals and several back and forths either in writing or in person would be expected and allow to refine documents so that they address both parties priorities.

Therefore working with foundations often involves a fair amount of writing, about organisational strategies or specific projects. Some foundations have very specific applications and reporting guidelines. Clear goals and strategies as well as compelling organisation and staff information are key. A number of other information including budgets and financials are typically required and it is also more and more common for funders to ask very detailed questions about diversity efforts, goals and statistics.

As always, a no is not a never and there are many ways to keep foundations engaged about the work they are closest to and sometimes used to support. As you’ll hear in our conversation with Bruce Morrow, these efforts are not for nothing. Grants can be transformative for nonprofits but they also require a group effort from the president to the person scheduling meetings and so internal communication is really key.

Given this collaborative process, institutional giving, which depending on the nonprofit also includes gifts from companies and government agencies, can be a great pathway when transitioning to fundraising. Program staff involved in cultivating relationships and writing content for foundations or writers coming from another industry have a lot of transferable skills.

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