How to Determine the Best Grant Prospects for Your Nonprofit
It’s time to take your broad list of prospects for grants to your nonprofit and find out more about each of those prospects. See what you can discover from the following sources:
The Foundation 1000: If one of your prospects is among the 1,000 largest foundations in the United States, turn to The Foundation 1000, a book that provides helpful, detailed information. A similarly detailed guide for corporate sources is Corporate Foundation Profiles.
Websites and annual reports: Larger foundations (approximately 13,000 of them) produce websites with detailed information about their grantmaking guidelines and grantees. Approximately 1,200 foundations publish printed guidelines and annual reports.
These websites and annual reports can be particularly helpful for grant seekers. They often include brief statements or introductory letters from the foundation’s leaders that provide insight into a foundation’s philosophy or its current direction. You can find printed annual reports in some libraries, or you can call the foundations and ask to have them sent to you.
Form 990s: Foundation 990 forms may be the only place to find a list that shows every single grant a particular foundation has awarded. Foundations are required to make their three most recent 990 reports available to the public. Many of them do so by including them on their websites.
Other places to find 990s include the Foundation Center, Nozasearch, and GuideStar websites. Some state agencies also provide online access to 990s. Finally, you can request a photocopy of a foundation’s 990-PF either in writing or in person. The foundation may ask for a reasonable photocopying fee.
Approximately half of the foundations in the United States don’t review grant proposals from organizations that are unfamiliar to them and only give to nonprofits that have been chosen by their trustees or staffs. To identify these foundations, watch for the phrases No unsolicited proposals or Gives only to preselected organizations when reviewing their profiles.
If you have been searching through 990-PF documents to find a possible funder, check Part XV, Question 2. Foundations that don’t accept unsolicited proposals will check a box here indicating that practice.
A foundation’s 990 may be the only place you can see a complete list of grants, but PDF files for the nation’s largest foundations are enormous. You should not download a 990 from one of the larger foundations. Downloading these files is more useful when you’re studying small foundations whose grants lists may not otherwise be available.
The foundation’s contact person: If a foundation listing includes a contact person and phone number — and if it doesn’t say you shouldn’t call — feel free to call that person to confirm information and ask any questions you may have.
However, you should do so only after you’ve read as much as you can find about that foundation. This way you can be focused, clear, and knowledgeable as you seek additional information.