Tips for Securing Grants from Foundations

If your association relies on grants to keep its programs and initiatives going, here are a few tips for obtaining that funding from a grant-writing expert.

When associations get federal grants, it’s cause for excitement. Those big grants often help fund some of the great programs and initiatives that associations run. But most federal grants don’t last forever, and if associations want to keep their programs and initiatives going, they might need to turn to other funding options—foundations, for instance.

Dan Miller, a fundraising and grant-writing consultant working with Foundation Management Group, gave me the inside scoop on foundations and how associations might get the inside edge on winning their grants.

Understand the different types of foundations. There are three basic types of foundations that associations can apply for grants from: large private foundations, like the Gates Foundation, with a big, involved application process; community foundations, each with their own applications, deadlines, and priorities; and individual or family private foundations, which are generally less cumbersome when it comes to applications and deadlines.

“Those three different foundations all have very different approaches, very different funding priorities, very different deadlines,” he said. “And, as you can imagine, the smaller family foundations give smaller grants; the great big giant behemoth foundations give really big grants.”

Understand the importance of the “discovery call.” To make better use of both an association’s and foundation’s time, Miller recommends making discovery calls. “We schedule discovery calls with the larger foundations—and talk to them about what we’re doing, talk to them about what their priorities are, get a good handle on which of their different funding streams is the best for us to apply to, and to make sure we’re clear on the deadline,” he said.

Not only does it help the association to ascertain whether they should even apply for a certain grant, it also helps familiarize the foundation with the association. Miller said that the big foundations get a lot of requests, so the associations that they know more about tend to have a better chance at securing funding. And sometimes the foundations will even offer grant-application advice to associations. Miller said that discovery calls are most useful for large private foundations and community foundations. “Smaller foundations may not wish to speak to potential grant seekers or not have the staff to handle these calls,” he said. “It’s worth it to call them, but don’t be discouraged if they don’t call back.”

I asked Miller if he had any other advice for associations applying for foundation grants, and he said if you get turned down for a grant one year, don’t hesitate to try again. “You should keep foundations informed by mailing annual reports and other important announcements to the person who heads the foundation or the program from which you are seeking funds,” he said. “Also, don’t disqualify yourself by not following the rules. Don’t miss the deadline, and if they say the summary should be three pages, double spaced with a one-inch margin, they mean it. Don’t get your grant refused over a technical mistake.”

What are your tips for securing foundation grants? Please leave your comments below.

(Olivier/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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