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Even during the disruptions of the covid-19 pandemic, there is good reason to be optimistic about finding and winning competitively awarded grants from grant-making foundations. As of mid 2020, there seems to be no shortage of grants available to eligible grant-seeking nonprofit organizations or other types of grant seekers in the United States of America.

 

The total amounts of annual foundation giving have reached all-time highs, as have the numbers of grant making private foundations. By contrast, the country’s total number of nonprofit organizations has crested after years of steady increases. While competition for foundation grants remains intense, its rate of escalation appears to have eased somewhat.

 

Foundation Distribution by Type

 

Data reported at Foundation Center has tracked the substantial growth in the numbers of grant-making foundations and total foundation giving in recent years.

 

In 2002, the US had 64,845 grant-making foundations. Of these, 57,840 (or 89.2%) were independent foundations, 661 (or 1.0%) were community foundations, 2,357 (or 3.6%) were corporate foundations, and 3,987 (or 6.2%) were operating foundations. For 2002, total foundation giving was $30,174,135,261.

 

In 2005, the US had 71,095 grant-making foundations. Of these, 63,060 (or 88.7%) were independent foundations, 708 (or 1.0%) were community foundations, 2,607 (or 3.7%) were corporate foundations, and 4,722 (or 6.6%) were operating foundations. For 2005, total foundation giving was $36,402,341,424.

 

In 2010, the US had 76,610 grant-making foundations. Of these, 68,211 (or 89.0%) were independent foundations, 734 (or 1.0%) were community foundations, 2,718 (or 3.5%) were corporate foundations, and 4,947 (or 6.5%) were operating foundations. For 2010, total foundation giving was $45,857,616,422.

 

In 2015, the US had 86,203 grant-making foundations. Of these, 79,489 (or 92.2%) were independent foundations, 795 (or 0.9%) were community foundations, 2,468 (or 2.9%) were corporate foundations, and 3,451 (or 4.0%) were operating foundations. For 2015, total foundation giving was $62,793,608,844.

 

67 Foundations % by Type Graphic 2020

 

  Foundation Distribution by Type
  2002 2005 2010 2015
Independent Foundations 89.2% 88.7% 89.0% 92.2%
Community Foundations 1.0% 1.0% 1.0% 0.9%
Corporate Foundations 3.6% 3.7% 3.5% 2.9%
Operating Foundations 6.2% 6.6% 6.5% 4.0%

 

67 Foundations N by Type Graphic 2020

 

  Foundation Distribution by Type
  2002 2005 2010 2015
Independent Foundations 57,840 63,060 68,211 79,489
Community Foundations 661 708 734 795
Corporate Foundations 2,357 2,607 2,718 2,468
Operating Foundations 3,987 4,722 4,947 3,451

 

Growth Rates by Foundation Type

 

Growth rates have varied with foundation type. The total number of all types of grant-making foundations was up by 21,348 (or 32.9%) from 2002 to 2015. Of independent foundations, the total number climbed by 21,649 (or 37.4%) during the same period. From 2002 to 2015, the total number of community foundations grew by 134 (or 20.3%). Of corporate foundations, the total number rose by 111 (or 4.7%) from 2002 to 2015. By contrast, over the same years, the total number of operating foundations fell by 536 (or 13.4%).

 

67 Growth Foundations Graphic 2020

 

Growth in Number of Foundations 2002-2015
Types of Foundations % Change
All Types 32.9%
Independent Foundations 37.4%
Community Foundations 20.3%
Corporate Foundations 4.7%
Operating Foundations 13.4%

 

Growth Rates by State

 

In many states, the total number of grant-making foundations has grown significantly over time. Some states have witnessed marked growth. As some examples of growth in the number of grant-making foundations:

 

  • Pennsylvania was up by 3,278 (97.0%), from 3,378 foundations in 2002 to 6,656 foundations in 2015.
  • New Mexico was up by 79 (39.9%), from 198 foundations in 2002 to 277 foundations in 2015.
  • Texas was up by 1,277 (36.4%), from 3,505 foundations in 2002 to 4,782 foundations in 2015.
  • Maine was up by 95 (35.4%), from 268 foundations in 2002 to 363 foundations in 2015.
  • West Virginia was up by 66 (29.1%), from 227 foundations in 2002 to 293 foundations in 2015.
  • California was up by 1,721 (29.0%), from 5,929 foundations in 2002 to 7,650 foundations in 2015.

 

In other states, the number of grant-making foundations was less robust over the same period. As a couple of examples:

 

  • New York was up by 914 (10.6%), from 8,715 foundations in 2002 to 9,639 foundations in 2015.
  • Mississippi was up by 18 (or 8.0%), from 225 foundations in 2002 to 243 foundations in 2015.

 

Numbers of Non-Profit Organizations

 

Data reported at the National Center for Charitable Statistics has tracked changes in the numbers of nonprofit organizations and public charities registered in the US. Nonprofit organizations saw substantial growth in the 2000s, but that growth slowed in the 2010s; they were up overall by 13.9% from 2002 to 2015. By contrast, the total number of public charities grew steadily throughout the period; it was up overall by 46.4% from 2002 to 2015.

 

  • In 2002, the US had 1,370,000 nonprofit organizations, and it had 743,226 public charities.
  • In 2005, the US had 1,410,000 nonprofit organizations, and it had 847,946 public charities.
  • In 2010, the US had 1,560,000 nonprofit organizations, and it had 979,883 public charities.
  • In 2015, the US had 1,560,000 nonprofit organizations, and it had 1,088,447 public charities.

 

In short, based on available data—which lag behind the present era of the covid-19 pandemic— while the numbers of nonprofit organizations (potential grant seekers) have grown in recent years, so too have the numbers of grant-making foundations and their total amounts of giving.

This is the second post in a two-part series presenting ten keys to winning grants. It offers five more keys for unlocking the grants bank vault and for winning grants that you can live with after they are made.

 

71 Ten Keys Graphic 2020

 

  1. Use grants to advance your funders’ goals.

 

Be aware that all funders have goals and agendas; they seldom fund outside them. Look for their goals and agendas in requests for proposals, annual reports, or funders’ recent patterns of making grants. Adopt each funder’s goals and agenda as your own. Advance them at a reasonable cost through what you propose to do, and how you propose to do it.

 

  1. Respect differences among funders.

 

Respect the uniqueness of each funder. Know what types of budget items are allowable costs. Avoid writing proposals from a generic template. Do not pretend that one size fits all. Adapt your proposed plans of action to match the interests and priorities of each funder. Demonstrate your desire to work with each potential funder as a special partner. Plan to engage the funder substantively throughout a project, not just at its start and its end. Make cultivating positive relationships with funders a part of your organizational culture.

 

  1. Know what you expect to accomplish with a grant.

 

Ask critical questions before you begin. Know why you are seeking a grant from a particular funder. Ensure broad-based ownership of a proposal before you submit it. Be prepared to articulate why you feel your organization fits well with any given funder’s array of grant programs. Describe how you will generate the benefits and results you identify in a proposal. Convey willingness to share your progress and outcomes with the funder and other appropriate audiences.

 

  1. Stay on the good side of your decision-makers.

 

Always consider the needs, priorities, backgrounds, and concerns of your funders and proposal reviewers. Write clearly and plainly. Follow grant program instructions. If a funder sets a page limit, do not submit more pages. If it uses specific review criteria, address every one in sequence. If it requires certain forms or attachments, submit only those, not others. If it specifies funding priorities, respond to them. Remain pleasant and grateful with every funder regardless of a proposal’s outcome.

 

  1. Partner or perish.

 

Pursue participatory grant seeking. Engage other stakeholders and agencies as partners in seeking grants and planning proposals. Make your constituents aware of your plans to seek grants. Solicit their input and insights in developing proposals. Whenever appropriate, recruit other organizations as partners in planning, implementing, and monitoring a proposed project. Leverage local financial and programmatic resources. Show the presence of strong local commitment, community engagement, and an intention to share costs and sustain an initiative after a grant ends.

 

 

Sometimes we need to revisit exactly why we want a grant in the first place and what we can expect a grant award to do for us. If we do want a specific grant enough to seek it, we have to come to terms with what winning it will entail.

 

71 Ten Keys Graphic 2020

 

This post is half of a two-part series. The series presents ten keys for unlocking the grants bank vault. Use them to win grants that you can live with afterwards.

 

  1. Use grants to fill gaps.

 

Use grants to help to fill gaps in existing service programs, for example, by expanding them to solve problems in new places or by retooling them to solve emerging problems in places already served. Do not expect every grant prospect to be usable to build capacity, or to support a start-up, or to defray ordinary operating expenses. Do not expect to use grants as a total substitute for local commitments of funds. Use the grants you seek to augment, rather than to supplant, your existing efforts.

 

  1. Treat each grant as a means, not as an end.

 

Diversify funding sources. Do not rely exclusively on grants to fund your programs and initiatives. Be aware that funders tend to favor already-established applicants who have enough operating funds to remain viable without a new grant. Do not expect grants to meet all or most of your existing payroll or similar cost items. Instead, approach funders to support your research-based innovations, to advance your systemic reforms, or to act as catalysts for your strategies for improving the human condition.

 

  1. Consider seeking grants as a process, not an event.

 

Look for grants as part of a larger plan for financing your projects and initiatives. Seek them as an ongoing activity rather than a hasty and sudden reaction to a particular funding opportunity. Use grants as one among several financial resources, not your only such resource. Use them to advance your mission, vision, and strategic plans, not distort or dictate them.

 

  1. Look at developing proposals as a process, not an event.

 

Understand that developing a fundable proposal requires organizational commitment of often-scarce resources, such as time, talent, expertise, and money. It demands extensive coordination with other initiatives. It also commonly involves creating a narrative, devising a budget, and communicating often with internal and external audiences. Expect to expend greater effort for greater return. Expect the required effort to reflect proportionately the amount of funding you plan to request.

 

  1. Sell grant-makers on your solutions to their problems.

 

Accept that grant programs have rationales for their existence, well-defined purposes and visions their funders seek to advance. Grant seekers need to resonate with these as well as with their own reasons for applying for a grant. They need to reflect the funders’ agendas in their proposals. And they need to sell the funders on the benefits and results they are likely to achieve if they receive a grant. Understand that simply peddling new means or methods or lamenting about acute and unmet local financial needs rarely yields a grant award. Instead, present cost-effective and research-based solutions to clearly defined and solvable problems.

 

This is the third of three posts in a series. As noted in earlier posts, before submitting a proposal, Internal Red Team Reviews improve the likelihood that a proposal will win a grant. The best time for a Red Team to review a proposal is well before its submission deadline. At least a full week ahead of a deadline is a reasonable target.

 

77 Red Teams Graphic 2020

 

Sample Rating Form

 

Rating Forms anchor the Red Team Review process. In order to minimize half-point item ratings, the entire sample Rating Form’s maximum score is 200 points. This post covers several sample Rating Form sections; other posts cover the remaining sections.

 

Maximum sub-scores vary by section, as noted. For the maximum value of each item, divide the subsection’s maximum sub-score by the 5 or 10 items in the proposal subsection. Assign sub-scores for each item up to that maximum value.

 

 

CONTINUATION PLAN

 

YES/NO SCORE ATTRIBUTE
    Presents a plan to obtain further funding
    Identifies potential and secured sources of future funding
    Minimizes reliance on future grant support
    Is supported with letters of commitment
    Letters of commitment state specific commitment amounts
Total:   Maximum is 10 points.

 

BUDGET and BUDGET NARRATIVE

 

YES/NO SCORE ATTRIBUTE
    Is consistent with the proposal narrative
    Provides sufficient detail for every line item
    Limits line items to within the proposed budget period
    Justifies and clearly explains all cost items
    Identifies sources of funding for all line items
    Breaks out fringe benefits from salaries
    Pay rates are consistent with staff roles and qualifications
    Includes indirect charges when appropriate
    Separates non-personnel cost items from personnel items
    Budget clearly relates to project’s proposed work plan
Total:   Maximum is 30 points.

 

RATING A PROPOSAL’S READINESS FOR SUBMISSION:

CONTINUATION PLAN                

Reviewer:                  Maximum: 10

BUDGET and BUDGET NARRATIVE

Reviewer:                   Maximum: 30

Sections Total Possible Score:  40

Sections Total Review Score:

Total Possible Score of Full Proposal:  200

Total Review Score of Full Proposal:

Reviewer Panelist Code:

Recommend for Funding (Yes/No):

This is the second post in a three-part series. As noted in the first post, before submitting a proposal, Internal Red Team Reviews improve the likelihood that a proposal will win a grant. The best time to for a Red Team to review a proposal is well before its submission deadline. A reasonable target is at least a full week ahead of a deadline.

 

77 Red Teams Graphic 2020

 

This post covers several sample Red Team Review Rating Form sections; two other posts cover the remaining sections.

 

Sample Rating Form

 

Checklists anchor the Red Team Review process. In order to minimize half-point item ratings, the entire sample Rating Form’s maximum score is 200 points. Maximum sub-scores vary by section, as noted. For the maximum value of each proposal attribute or item, divide the subsection’s maximum sub-score by the 10 items in the proposal subsection. Assign sub-scores for each item up to that maximum value.

 

GOALS and OBJECTIVES

 

YES/NO SCORE ATTRIBUTE
    States clear, concise, logical goals
    Goals are consistent with applicant’s mission and vision
    States clear and measurable objectives
    Objectives relate clearly to stated goals
    Objectives relate clearly to defined problems/needs
    Objectives focus on outcomes, not outputs
    Who is to benefit is clearly defined
    Timeline is explicit, feasible, and realistic
    Applicant has capacity to achieve its objectives
    Likely impacts are identified
Total:    Maximum is 40 points.

 

WORK PLAN or PROGRAM DESIGN

 

YES/NO SCORE ATTRIBUTE
    Strategies well-selected given stated needs and objectives
    Proposed activities are clear and appropriate
    States rationale for selecting key activities
    Describes sequences and coordination of activities
    Identifies qualifications of who will staff the project
    Links staff qualifications to proposed key activities
    States how participants will be recruited or selected
    States when activities will start and end
    Describes resources to be used for key activities
    Demonstrates enough resources will be available for activities
Total:   Maximum is 40 points.

 

EVALUATION PLAN

 

YES/NO SCORE ATTRIBUTE
    Plans to evaluate every project objective
    Plans to adjust strategies as needed during project
    Plans to monitor progress in achieving objectives
    States who will monitor and evaluate project
    Qualifications of evaluation team are appropriate
    States performance criteria for every objective
    Describes data collection procedures and timeline
    Describes data analysis procedures and timeline
    Presents technical merits of evaluation instruments
    Describes evaluation report contents and timeline
Total:   Maximum is 30 points.

 

RATING A PROPOSAL’S READINESS FOR SUBMISSION:

GOALS and OBJECTIVES

Reviewer:                  Maximum: 40

WORK PLAN or PROGRAM DESIGN

Reviewer:                   Maximum: 40

EVALUATION PLAN    

Reviewer:                   Maximum: 30

Sections Total Possible Score:  110

Sections Total Review Score:

Reviewer Panelist Code:

 

Before submitting a proposal, holding an Internal Red Team Review will improve the likelihood it will win a grant. The more eyes that see the proposal, the stronger it should become. The best eyes will be those of expert and articulate persons who were not directly involved in creating it. Lack of prior involvement will enhance the objectivity of their critiques. Ideally, the reviewers will see the entire proposal, but almost any objective pre-submittal review should prove useful.

 

77 Red Teams Graphic 2020

 

It is far too late to fix defects in a grant proposal when it must be sent on its way before the end of a day. The best time to review it is well before the submission deadline. At least a full week ahead of a submission deadline is a reasonable target.

 

This post is the first in a three-part series. It covers several sample Red Team Review Rating Form sections; the other posts cover the remaining sections.

 

Sample Rating Form

 

Using a Rating Form anchors the Red Team Review process. As a way to minimize half-point item ratings, the entire sample Rating Form’s maximum score is 200 points.  Maximum sub-scores vary by section. For the maximum value of each proposal attribute or item, divide the subsection’s maximum sub-score by the 10 items in the proposal subsection. Assign sub-scores for each item up to that maximum value.

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY or ABSTRACT

 

YES/NO SCORE ATTRIBUTE
    Complies with funder’s instructions
    Clearly identifies the applicant
    States requested grant award amount
    Helps to establish applicant’s credibility
    Clearly defines the problem
    Identifies key strategies to resolve the problems/needs
    States the focuses of proposed objectives
    Is clear and concise
    Avoids jargon
    Builds interest in reading further
Total:   Maximum is 10 points. 

 

BACKGROUND or INTRODUCTION

 

YES/NO SCORE ATTRIBUTE
    States the applicant’s vision and mission
    Describes applicant’s goals and objectives
    Provides program background and context
    Provides evidence of applicant’s capacity
    Presents data to support capacity
    Describes applicant’s accomplishments
    Relates clearly to identified problems or needs
    Is clear and concise
    Avoids jargon
    Builds interest in reading further
Total:    Maximum is 10 points.

 

NEEDS ASSESSMENT or PROBLEM STATEMENT

 

YES/NO SCORE ATTRIBUTE
    States where and who is to be served
    Appears realistic within the time available
    Clearly relates to funder’s definition of problems/needs
    Shows evidence of intended beneficiaries’ input
    Avoids circular reasoning in defining problems/needs
    Provides appropriate data to substantiate problems/needs
    Links problem/needs to research literature
    Links needed resources to existing resources
    Presents persuasive rationale based on substantiated problems/needs
    Builds interest in reading further
Total:    Maximum is 30 points.

 

RATING A PROPOSAL’S READINESS FOR SUBMISSION:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY or ABSTRACT

Reviewer:                  Maximum: 10

BACKGROUND or INTRODUCTION

Reviewer:                   Maximum: 10

NEEDS ASSESSMENT or PROBLEM STATEMENT

Reviewer:                   Maximum: 30

Sections Total Possible Score:  50

Sections Total Review Score:

Reviewer Panelist Code:

Some project planning tools should be part of every competitive grant writer’s repertoire. One such tool is the RASCI Chart. It is particularly useful for clarifying the roles and responsibilities of project team members and project stakeholders.

 

Elements of a RASCI Chart

 

A RASCI Chart is a form of responsibility matrix. It clarifies roles and responsibilities for tasks and deliverables within a project team. It specifies who will do what. A RASCI Chart sorts responsibilities of a project’s anticipated participants into those who are: Responsible, Accountable, Supportive, Consulted, and Informed.

 

66 RASCI Charts Graphic2 2020.

 

A RASCI Chart encompasses all of the primary types of stakeholders in a project. It helps in mapping project Implementation Plans, Personnel Plans, and Evaluation Plans. It also helps in doing a task analysis for a Gantt chart, and in developing project-specific position descriptions. The RASCI Chart itself seldom appears in proposals; instead, it guides their preparation, and later, after funding, it may guide a project’s start-up and early implementation.

 

R = Responsible. The R is the one person who will be ultimately responsible for success in completing a task and in delivering its work products. The R may be the person who actually will do the work (or produce the deliverable) or who will direct others to do the work. Example: Strategic Communication Specialist.

 

A = Accountable. The A is the one person who will have ultimate accountability and authority for the task. The A is also the person to whom R will report or will be otherwise accountable, and A is the person who will approve the adequacy of the work product (deliverable). Example: Project Director.

 

S = Supportive. The S is the person or team of persons who will be needed to do the actual work of completing specific tasks (or creating specific deliverables). The S often includes persons who can provide logistical, coordinative, or administrative services. Example: Professional Development Coordinator.

 

C = Consulted. The C is anyone whose input will add value and/or whose buy-in will be essential for the ultimate implementation of the tasks. The C commonly includes entities or persons in entities who can offer technical expertise to a task. Example: Community-Based Organizations.

 

I = Informed. The I is the person or groups of persons who will need to be notified of results or actions taken but who will not need to be involved in daily decision-making processes. The I will include persons or groups that will need to be “kept in the loop” and/or apprised of the status and progress of a project. Example: Board of Directors.

 

Creating a RASCI Chart

 

A RASCI Chart requires the prior completion of at least a preliminary task analysis for a project. After completing a task analysis, create a table. List the Tasks down the Y-axis. List the Positions or Persons along the X-axis. Enter the roles in the cells. Color-code each type of role (if desired). The relative numbers of stakeholders by code should be: I > C > S > R > A. Every task must have an A and an R. Not every task needs an S.

 

Sample RASCI Chart

 

RASCI Chart Table Graphic

 

Uses

 

Among the uses of a RASCI Chart in writing a grant proposal are:

  1. Program Design—Describing action steps that R, A, S, C, and/or I will perform
  2. Personnel Plan—Identifying types of personnel required to implement a project
  3. Evaluation Plan—Identifying types of personnel needed for interim and final evaluation of a project
  4. Budget—Allocating funds for key personnel identified through creating a RASCI Chart

 

Limitations

 

Among the limitations of using a RASCI Chart in writing a grant proposal are:

  1. Possible proliferation of A when only one person should be A
  2. Interpretations that R are not A to any degree at all
  3. Possible proliferation of C where too many C may slow progress of a project

 

Other posts discuss other project development tools such as Gantt charts, SWOT Analysis, PESTLE Analysis, Root Cause Analysis, Red Team Reviews, Meta-analysis, and Logic Models.

 

 

 

Planning a proposal to win a grant from a corporation is a 12-step process. Its final six steps are: Structure, Contact, Rehearse, Present, Develop, and Deliver.

 

65 Win Corporate Grants Graphic2 2020

 

STRUCTURE: Prepare, edit, and proofread a brief concept paper or proposal synopsis. Include more detail than in your earlier project outline, but still less than in a full proposal. Include estimates of the funds and other resources needed for the project. Clearly identify all sources of funds; include both funds already in hand and funds yet to be secured.

 

CONTACT: Call the corporate contact person, if appropriate. Ask for a time to meet face-to-face, if both sides can meet that way. Create a small team for the face-to-face meeting, if one was arranged. Whenever advantageous, include on the team an articulate, well-connected, and highly placed advocate to serve as your spokesperson. Prepare slides for a concept paper or a proposal synopsis to be distributed and/or viewed at each face-to-face meeting.

 

REHEARSE: Review your proposed project once again, as necessary. Incorporate insights from all types of contacts with the corporate foundation or charitable giving program. Seek feedback on your revised draft proposal from disinterested third parties. Discuss the feedback with the proposal development team and adjust plans based on it.

 

PRESENT: Visit the corporate representatives and make a brief oral presentation. Use not more than a half hour for the entire visit. State the specific amount of your funding request and the kinds of corporate involvement or support you seek. Sell your core ideas. Listen actively. Record the representatives’ responses. After the meeting, immediately follow up with a personalized thank-you. Be sure that one of your organization’s high-level executives signs it.

 

DEVELOP: If invited to submit one, fully develop a proposal for your project. Include an executive summary, if possible. Adopt and use a professional business format and writing style. Reflect the requirements, expectations, and unique identity of each specific corporation and its grant-making program in each proposal you submit.

 

DELIVER: Present or deliver the full proposal. Use whatever mode of delivery that a specific funder prefers. Accept and acknowledge the corporation’s funding decisions with equanimity. Regardless of its decision on any given proposal, communicate a desire to maintain and build a relationship with the funder.

 

Planning a proposal to win a grant from a corporation is a 12-step process. The first six steps are: Search, Review, Align, Refine, Analyze, and Revise.

 

64 Win Corporate Grants Graphic1 2020

 

SEARCH: Use a project outline or a similar device as a guide for planning and identifying a suitable project. Research corporate websites, state grant directories, and Foundation Center (or other) databases for listings of corporate foundations and charitable giving programs. Review tables of contents, search options, and instructions about how to use the directories and databases. Refer to glossaries, if any, to clarify terms as needed. Use subject topic options and types of support options to help narrow the search.

 

REVIEW: Identify up to ten prospective sources of corporate funding. Study their websites. Consider the corporations’ sizes and locations. Focus on corporations with a presence in your city or county or state. Gauge potential corporate interest. Review each corporation’s charitable giving programs and initiatives. Examine their annual reports. Look for clues about their products, priorities, and funding patterns. Consider the degree of fit between these and your project or other funding request.

 

ALIGN: Match up your project with each corporate grant program. Look for potential advocates for your project by recruiting among persons who work for the corporation, persons on its Board of Directors, persons who use its products or services extensively, and community members. Canvas your organization’s leading advocates and proponents. Ask if anyone has personal or social connections with trustees, board members, executives, or others in key decision-making positions at each corporation.

 

REFINE: Do further research. Use directories, databases, and corporate websites to identify each prospect’s history, founder, board members, and trustees. Obtain and analyze an organizational chart, if available. Locate and review recent news stories about each corporation, particularly those highlighting its philanthropic activities. Review each corporation’s program websites, annual reports, newsletters, and other publications.

 

ANALYZE: Study the information you gather from your research. Reconsider the degree of fit of your organization and your project with each target corporation. Estimate and describe the possible benefits of your project to each potential corporate funder. Order in ranked priorities those corporations whose foundation grant-making and/or charitable giving programs appear to have the best fit with your project.

 

REVISE: Revisit your project and funding request. Review its selling points in light of each corporation’s philanthropic and community-relations agenda. Identify ways to improve the clarity of your project’s fit with each agenda. When there is no clear fit, do not try to force one on the corporation or on your project.

 

Further steps for winning corporate grants appear in another post.

 

Planning a proposal to win a grant from a foundation is a 12-step process. Its final six steps are: Structure, Prepare, Present, Refine, Develop, and Deliver.

 

63 Win Foundation Grants Graphic2 2020

 

STRUCTURE: Do more research about your prioritized private foundations. Use directories, databases, and foundation websites to identify each prospect’s founder, board members, and trustees. Review websites and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990-PF filings for lists of each foundation’s recent grantees. Compare and contrast the grantees with your organization. Find and review recent news stories about grants awarded by your prioritized foundations.

 

PREPARE: Create three proposal frameworks. If the foundation publishes them, create a checklist of its review criteria and proposal content requirements. Make a second checklist of your project’s key selling points as they relate to the foundation’s criteria. Lastly, create a checklist for each foundation’s format and submission requirements.

 

PRESENT: Compile a set of questions for each foundation, assemble a project presentation team, and arrange to call or visit your prioritized foundations. Always be sure that a foundation welcomes a call or visit before making one. Consider your readiness, the timing, and the potential benefits and risks of making direct contact with each foundation. Be certain to have one of your upper-level executives serve on your team. Describe your project and sell its core ideas. Listen actively. Ask questions for clarification and capture the answers. Follow each site visit quickly with a personalized brief thank-you signed by an executive administrator.

 

REFINE: Revise your project after your calls or visits, if you made any. Incorporate insights you gained from doing your research and preparing your three frameworks. Also incorporate insights that you acquired through all contact with any representatives of each foundation.

 

DEVELOP: Fully develop the plans for the project. Establish organizational capacity and substantiate needs. Formulate goals and objectives and specify key activities. Develop timelines. Identify appropriate staff. Articulate evaluation plans. Delineate budgets. Include appropriate attachments or appendices such as itemized budgets, board members, evidence of nonprofit or other legal status, most recent annual financial audit report, and annual report.

 

DELIVER: Write and submit a letter of inquiry or a full proposal consistent with each foundation’s preferences, requirements, and expectations. Acknowledge and respect the foundation’s funding decisions after its review of your proposal. Wait for the entire required time interval, if any, before applying to the same foundation again.

 

 

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