​Foundations and Grants: Overview and Tips

So you want to apply to a foundation for a grant?  Before spending lots of time and effort gathering information and writing a proposal, please read the information and guidelines below.

General Foundation Grant FAQs:

What is a foundation grant?

A grant is a sum of money awarded by a foundation to a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization to help fund a project or general operating support. The grant does not need to be paid back to the foundation if it is used as outlined in the grant proposal request.  

How do I know if I can apply for a grant?

See sections below on “The Navigator’s Foundations and Grants Guidelines” and “Questions to Consider Before Seeking a Foundation Grant.” Please note that most foundations do not provide individual support. There are a few exceptions such as individual donors who choose to give through a foundation or a Donor Advised Fund (DAF).

How often can I apply for a grant?

Most foundations allow one grant per organization per year. A foundation’s funding cycle is determined by the foundation Board or Trustees and can be yearly, quarterly, monthly, ongoing, etc.

It is important to check with the Foundations and Grants office in Development to see if someone else within The Navigators already has a relationship with a particular foundation, and to be sure a grant has not already been submitted for the current funding cycle.

What are the steps in approaching a foundation?

See section below on “How to Approach a Foundation.”

What is involved in preparing and submitting a grant proposal?

It takes a substantial amount of time to write a proposal, gather additional information required, and prepare and send a proposal package. Many times a deadline is involved and the package must reach the foundation office in time or it will not be considered for funding.

However, once a proposal is written, it can be used as a template and edited for submission to additional foundations. The questions in the section “Questions to Consider Before Seeking a Foundation Grant” will give you a good idea of what a foundation typically wants to see in a grant proposal.  

The Foundation Center has a free proposal writing tutorial at http://foundationcenter.org/getstarted/tutorials/shortcourse/

What are my chances of winning a grant award?

Foundations receive hundreds of grant proposals for worthy causes. The foundation Board or Trustees have the difficult job of choosing which projects to fund, since they have a limited amount of money each cycle to fund grants. Some of the ways proposals are evaluated are:

• Completeness (a foundation may narrow down the proposals to be considered by disqualifying proposals that are not complete)

• Projects or programs that best meet the interests and objectives of the foundation

• A well thought out project or program with measurable outcomes

• A program that demonstrates a potentially greater “return” or impact

• Organizations with a stable history (even though some foundations like to help seed grass roots programs)

• If the organization has been funded in the past, timely reporting

Sometimes even a great proposal is not funded the first time around – additional time may be needed to build a deeper relationship with that foundation.

What are the requirements after I receive a grant award?

The first step is to send a thank you letter and receipt. Each foundation’s requirements are different, but most foundations require a yearly report on how the grant was spent. The grant MUST be spent on what was outlined in the proposal. If the project or ministry situation changes, the foundation MUST be notified and the grant may have to be returned if the funds will not be spent as originally intended.

Good recordkeeping and reporting is critical. We suggest that a new navid be created to capture each grant’s income and expenses. And, like all relationships, it is important to stay in touch with the foundation on a regular basis and provide regular updates on your project or ministry. Some foundations only want a brief update and do not want brochures, DVDs, and materials - ask each foundation how much information they would like to receive and how often.


Questions to Consider Before Approaching a Foundation

Each foundation is unique and research must be performed to determine if the foundation is a good fit with your project or ministry, what their preferred approach is, deadlines, information requirements, and an appropriate “ask” amount. Click this link <Link to document on “Questions to Ask Before Approaching a Foundation” page> to review questions to consider, along with information a foundation typically wants to see in a grant proposal. If any of these questions are unanswerable or not clearly defined, it is most likely not a good investment of your time and effort to apply for a grant until all the proposal pieces are in place.


How to Approach a Foundation

The Foundation Center has an excellent short tutorial you can watch on approaching a foundation athttp://foundationcenter.org/getstarted/training/online/product_online_training.jhtml?id=prod2910001



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