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An earlier post promised to examine how potential applicants might use answers to a set of specific questions about information found in foundation directory grant maker profiles to sort out the strong leads from the weak ones.


As follow-up to that promise, this is the last of three posts on using foundation directories in prospect research. It covers: trustees/directors, financial data, and selected grants.



Sometimes, as popular wisdom has it, it’s not what you know it’s whom you know. If someone connected to an applicant organization (e.g., an executive director or a member of a board of directors) knows personally someone connected to a foundation (e.g., a director or a trustee), it may improve the applicant’s odds of getting a grant.


A well-placed connection on a foundation’s board of directors may be willing to advocate on behalf of a grant for a specific applicant. If not actual advocacy, the same connection may be willing to share deeper insights into what the foundation’s decision-makers favor in a grant proposal. Although the absence of a well-placed advocate is not a reason to forgo a grant opportunity, its presence can prove helpful.


Financial Data:

Smaller foundations tend to have lesser financial assets and to award fewer grants than larger ones. They also tend to award smaller amounts in each grant or to award grants only to pre-selected (or invited) applicants.


No matter who does the work, preparing a proposal costs an applicant time and money. It may get a greater return on its investment if it seeks a single grant of $50,000 rather than using the same proposal to seek ten grants each for a tenth as much. However, if all an applicant needs is a grant of $5,000, it should not request one for $50,000.


Selected Grants:

Entries in a foundation directory may list sample recent grant awards. Such lists seldom present every grant award a foundation has made in a recent year. Look at the amounts awarded and the nature of the recipients. If at least one recipient is similar to the applicant and if the amounts are similar to what the applicant needs, then add the funder to a list of possible grant makers. Look up the funder’s website and/or at its annual 990-PF or 990 filings. Both places will list every grant it made in a given reporting period and will confirm (or disconfirm) the foundation as a possible funder.


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