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It can help in winning a grant to consider planning a proposal to a private foundation as a 12-step process. These are the first six steps.


1. Search. Use a project outline or a similar device as a guide for planning and identifying a suitable project. Research foundation websites, state directories of foundations, and Foundation Center (or other) databases. 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.


2. Review. Match up the project with each identified foundation grant program. Consider each possible match in terms of applicant eligibility, types of available support, geographic focus, subject focus, application deadlines, ranges of recent grant awards, and types and locations of recent grant recipients. Sort the prospect list into stronger prospects and weaker ones. Eliminate prospects that decline unsolicited proposals.


3. Align. Identify up to ten potential sources of foundation funding. Focus first on foundations with a presence in your city or county or state. Using foundation websites or those of Guidestar or the Foundation Center, look up their filings of IRS 990-PF forms. Review their grant-making programs and priorities. Examine their annual reports and position papers, if any. Look for and note any clues about their passions, agendas, and funding patterns. Consider the degree of fit between these and your project.


4. Refine. Prepare to contact your leading prospects. Record and use their preferred means of contact: e-mail, phone, visit, or letter. Contact your selected foundations, where possible and necessary, to request any materials you cannot already find for downloading from their websites. Such materials may include: recent grant awards, recent newsletters and annual reports, other foundation publications, and application guidelines or templates.


5. Analyze. Organize the materials you collect about each foundation. Use database software or create a searchable spreadsheet. Populate the database with information about local and regional foundations. Track the nature and extent of your prospect research. Create accurate records of any contacts with selected foundations. Document their responses to requests for information and your follow-up to them.


6. Revise. Analyze your databases and materials to narrow your focus. Reconsider the degree of fit of your organization and your project with each selected target foundation. Order in ranked priorities those foundations whose grant-making programs appear to have the best fit with you. Work down through the resulting list.


Six more steps for winning foundation grants will appear here soon.


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