Every relationship needs some common ground. Professional grant writer Maddie Zeigler shares how ensuring a match between your nonprofit’s mission and a foundation’s can help you secure funding.
There are thousands of foundations throughout the United States that play a large role in the world of philanthropy. For nonprofits, identifying funders that share a similar vision can greatly help in achieving their goals. And there are critical steps you can take to identify grantmakers that will lead to strong funding partnerships.
Know the landscape
Before you start your funding search, get to know the foundation landscape:
Community foundations pool contributions from individuals, families, and businesses to support nonprofits near them. Their geographic focus means their gifting practices are more general and geared toward organizations that can demonstrate a positive impact on their shared communities.
Private foundations, which represent the majority of U.S. foundations, are established by individuals, families, or corporations with varying missions. While most are created to spread goodwill in the community by supporting local organizations and events, many also cross state and national borders, funding a variety of causes. Unlike community foundations, their interests and giving habits tend to be more focused and mission driven. To determine which specific grantmaker(s) your organization should approach, see whether your missions align.
Create a strong mission
For any organization, its mission is the backbone of its activities and goals. That mission guides decisions about programs and projects. A well-crafted mission statement is focused and concise, but it clearly explains the entity’s unique set of skills for solving a community problem by strategically addressing its primary causes. Before seeking funders, clearly define your organization’s mission. That will make the task of mission matching with foundations much easier.
It is very easy for a nonprofit to fall into the trap of generalizing with its mission statement. You wish to create positive change in your community, as do all nonprofits, so be specific about what you do. Answering these questions will help get you started:
- What do we actually do, and how do we accomplish it?
- Whom do we help, and where do we help them?
- Why do we do this?
- What makes us unique (from a staff member’s perspective and an outsider’s)?
Figuring out your own value is incredibly important when determining your mission. There are likely other organizations engaged in causes similar to yours, so what makes you stand out? Be specific in describing why your organization exists.
A clear mission will be useful to your organization and will aid in creating meaningful partnerships with funders.
Ensure a match
As you search for potential funders, make a list of those nearest you. Begin your search with the closest, and work your way out. Grantmakers, just like nonprofits, are seeking partnerships to help them accomplish their philanthropic goals. But, based on their own missions, they have specific points of view for the types of change they wish to achieve. That’s why it is crucial to determine proper alignment in missions and values between your organization and the potential funder. These questions can help you check compatibility:
- Does the organization’s request for proposals (RFP) describe activities such as your programs?
- Is the foundation located in the same area that you serve?
- Do your missions seem to align or even somewhat align?
- Is there any connection between your organizations (personal relationships between staff, board members, or other supporters)?
- Does your organization partner with any other organizations that might extend your reach to funders you wouldn’t align with otherwise?
Doing your due diligence to find strong matches when searching for funders is crucial to your success in the future and will help you save time in the present.
Finding funders who share your values and views on community change will only strengthen your impact on those you serve.
Remaining focused on what you do best, stemming from your mission statement, is essential and is more likely to lead to the development of strong, significant relationships with funders. That, in turn, will enable you to improve communities through proactive engagement—in partnership with funders.
If you’re looking for more strategies to secure funding and build relationships with funders, don’t miss Part 2 of our foundation funding series, “How Clear Communication Can Help You Secure Foundation Funding.”
Featured Photo: The Elspeth Jack Music Academy by The Headstart Trust