If you’re striving to turn funders into trusted partners for your nonprofit, these key steps from a seasoned grant writer can help.
Finding foundations that align with your nonprofit is an important part of securing grant funding. Matching your missions and values will help you create a list of viable funding partners. But creating this shortlist is only the first step. Developing relationships with funders is an important second step that can bring you closer to winning grant funding.
Your funding search should begin in the state(s) where your organization operates. It is best to create a broad list of those closest to you and work your way out: city, state, then region.
This state-by-state resource page contains a comprehensive list of community and private foundations in the United States. Community foundations are regionally focused, pooling contributions from many different sources. Private foundations (which are much more abundant) are established and funded through a single source—an individual, family, or corporation.
Search the funders’ websites for pertinent information and current funding opportunities. Do some exploring to determine whether you should add them to your list of potential funders. You can also review funders’ 990 tax forms. Every private foundation in the US is required to file a 990-PF form with the Internal Revenue Service, and these forms are publicly available online. On this form, you will find a foundation’s mailing address, contact information, and board members, as well as their gifting history. Look at the organizations they have supported in the past, and determine whether they overlap with the types of services you offer.
Connecting with potential funders can be tricky. Many of them indicate they give only to predetermined organizations, while others may not even have contact information listed. Nevertheless, reaching out to funders is highly recommended if you use a targeted list developed after mission matching and follow a few best practices:
Reviewing their giving history to see whether they have awarded grants to organizations like yours in the past and finding organizations that serve or have served your geographic area will help you spot the potential or move on if there’s none.
A cold call sometimes works to start a conversation, but know whom you are trying to reach and ask to set up a time to talk in the future, at their convenience. You can summarize your organization and your areas of interest, but you are really just scheduling a future call. It is useful to have information about your organization consolidated for your reference. Make it clear that you have done your homework and know about their foundation, including their giving history and guidelines. Follow up with an email, either confirming the scheduled call or requesting the call if nothing has been set up. In the email, you can add more information about what you do (including your mission) and plan to do with any proposed funding. Make sure to take notes of all communications.
A concise and well-crafted LOI (Letter of Inquiry/Letter of Interest/Letter of Intent) can get you on a foundation’s radar and, in some instances, can even yield immediate funding. As long as there is enough of a match between your organization and the funder to justify a partnership, it is definitely worth taking a chance. Also, you will save time by waiting to create a full proposal until you know there is interest.
While it may seem intimidating to contact a foundation, remember that they are striving for the same thing you are: to find suitable partners to carry out critical work in the community while achieving their mission.
Don’t be shy—take the leap and introduce yourself.
There are many foundations across the country with varying missions and objectives, so you can find those that align with your organization. Proper mission matching, along with a thorough investigation into a funder’s past, will help identify your ideal partners. Once you have created a strong list, developing a relationship with a program officer and demonstrating your accomplishments through pointed communication techniques is the best way to secure foundation funding for your organization.
Ready to craft a strong mission statement that will help you find the right partners? Read Part 1 of our foundation funding series, “How To Secure Foundation Funding With Mission Matching.”
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