Finding More Foundation Support
Recently, Margy-Ruth and Perry Davis led a webinar on Bloomerang’s web series platform on how to tap foundation support in the COVID-19 climate. You can find the full webinar recording here. Below you’ll find the key takeaways from their discussion to help you plan strategic foundation solicitation efforts
We looked at grant-making from the funders point of view.
It’s important to understand the current mindset of foundation funders. Keep in mind that “foundations” could be small, local, family, mega or corporate foundations. Some have large professional staffs and others are small or one person offices.
Many foundations are taking on COVID-19. Others are waiting out the crisis and don’t want to shift from their current funding priorities. Many foundations are focusing only on their current grantees.
From recent reports, we’re seeing that many foundations are giving out more than their required 5% annual distribution in light of the circumstances.
Some foundations are making their grant guidelines more flexible, such as allowing project grants to be used for general operating expenses or delaying reporting requirements. Others are giving out both loans and grants, depending on the organization and circumstance.
All in all, most foundations are overwhelmed by the immense responsibility and call to action. That being said, foundations are getting many requests and there is no reason to avoid reaching out. Using the right strategy – get on their radar.
We recommended ways you can find more foundation support:
1. Your current foundation funders are key.
Connect with your foundation reps and give them an update. They want to hear from you. For your conversation:
- Begin by asking how your contact is doing and how their work is going. In these times the sincere and sympathetic human touch is appreciated.
- Transparency is essential – be upfront about the status of the project they are funding or the general challenges you are facing. However, be sure you can communicate projections, various scenarios and how you have adapted your projects under these new circumstances. Is the program that they are funding still running? How have you adapted the program in this climate?
- Are they giving out emergency support to their current grantees? They will be more likely to give to you because they’ve vetted you and already trust you.
- Can they increase or speed up their giving?
- Would they consider converting their restricted grant into general operating support?
- Since many foundations are now collaborating more, ask if your reps can refer you to other grantors. No one can solve these problems alone, and foundations may be more open now to different approaches and solutions.
2. Identify your DAF donors.
Movements like “#HalfmyDAF” have started in an effort to boost DAF grants at this time. It’s a good time to tap your DAF donors. Go through your donor database and see who has given through DAFs. Reach out to these donors individually to check-in and possibly ask for a gift. Many DAFs are housed at community foundations that are using their own funds for Covid relief. Treat these as a separate prospect.
3. You can approach foundations that have never made grants to you, though it will be more difficult.
If you are going this route, your prospect list should be made up of philanthropies that support two or more non-profits like yours. They are most likely to be theme driven and will be more open to adding another recipient with a compelling cause. Looking at past grantees and 990 historic data will also help you come up with a specific ask amount – something we highly recommend.
4. Your board members are your best door openers.
Since going cold is difficult, research connections between your board members/supporters and foundation trustees. Then, schedule a phone call with your board members to ask about their networks and review prospects you’ve uncovered through your research. In conversation with your board members, remind them that soliciting funds from foundations is different than soliciting funds from individuals: foundations have already placed money aside to be given out for this purpose and you’d like to be included as a grant recipient.
5. Search close to home — local and community foundations.
Foundations that are located in or close to your community likely share a common interest: seeing their local non-profit groups thrive. To find community foundations that can support you, research foundations that share your zip code, neighboring zip codes or greater metro areas. Find out who the contact is, connect with them and make your case. Better yet – ask a board member to make the call with you, or make the intro for you. If your board member is well-known in the community, you may be able to make a cold approach.
Some important tips to leave you with:
- Foundations are watching! Some foundations professionals are researching various service providers to support. Keep your website up to date with relevant data on how COVID-19 has affected you and your constituents. A brief impact report along with real stories can help visitors understand your circumstances in a flash.
- Before you decide to apply for a grant, check the foundation’s website. Priorities may have changed because of COVID-19.
- You can sometimes speak to a program officer during the grants process. Ask if you can share a draft of your LOI. Involving a program officer in the actual application process will increase your likelihood of success.
- When putting together your proposal budget,
- make sure you are submitting real numbers (as best you can). Too many round numbers in a budget raise a red flag with foundations.
- show your work. How did you arrive at your current line items – indicate quantities, units, cost per hour, etc.
- consider including different scenarios based on different assumptions, especially in this period of uncertainty.
We’re always available for a conversation, so please feel free to contact us for help with your outreach at firstname.lastname@example.org.