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How to Research – a Critical Step

Step 1: Getting Started: Determine the projects you will be writing about.

Develop a list of as many as you can depending on the kind of organization and work you do – special projects, capital renovations, equipment, etc. The broader you can be, the more prospects you can find.

Brainstorm a few ideas

  • What’s unique about your organization?
  • What special programs do you have?
  • Do you serve a unique constituency, or area?

Tip: Remember that this doesn't have to be limited to new projects…for example:

Look at your operating budget – see if you can pull out various line items and bundle them into a program that can be funded – example - talk with others in your organization – this cannot be done in a vacuum!

Find out what the staff are doing and/or what they need – see if you can creatively craft that into a proposal; ask about equipment, facilities, services, etc.

You may need to work with them in developing a program, depending on their abilities, etc. – we'll talk about that more when we discuss proposal writing.

Step 2: Start your research.

You MUST do this carefully and thoroughly – it is a critical step; some guidelines are very specific, others are more broadly written.

If you have doubts, call the foundation and talk with them – describe your project and get their feedback.

Check the foundation application information each time you apply; it changes! Deadlines, focus, etc.

Look for:

  • Regional match – nearby may be better – be sure you're in their regional guidelines if they have them.
  • Subject match (children, environment, health, etc.
  • Project match (unrestricted, capital, scholarship, etc.); and or
  • Religious match – some have religious preferences that are clearly stated or implied.

Tip: Don't try to fight their guidelines

These are the foundations' funds and it is their decision.

Characteristics of large funders you will want to know:

Step Three: Getting Started

Make a list of foundations that are good subject and project matches. Add the trustees/decision makers and share this list with your board, committees, good friends, clients and or neighbors to see if anyone knows anyone – target these first – they are your best shots!

  • Some have specific agendas.
  • Just because they are large doesn't mean they give to everyone.
  • Board connections are often of limited value – these foundations are very staff driven
  • Attend their information sessions for grantseekers or have a meeting with a staff member.
  • Read everything to see if you fit their giving priorities – their proposal process is lengthy; you don't want to go through it unless you have a chance.
  • Don't be bullied by someone who thinks you should apply if you don’t fit the guidelines.