The Importance of Community Foundations
Finding funding involves a lot of brainwork. Once you find a suitable foundation that supports your proposed projects, you also need to find new and innovative ways to describe your proposal according to the funder’s areas of interest. Sometimes it is difficult to determine exactly what it is a foundation is looking for in a grantee. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could stop in and discuss your proposal or establish a real-life relationship with someone at the foundation? Community foundations offer an excellent opportunity to forge in-person connections.
Consider Community Foundations
Community foundations are designed to improve the quality of life and society in a local area. They can be limited to towns, counties, or regions. They invest money in grants that are offered to organizations working in the community. Most community foundations have six main characteristics:
- They serve a geographically defined region.
- They make grants only in this region and that benefit residents.
- The mission is broadly defined.
- Donors primarily located in the community they serve fund the foundation, such as businesses and private donors.
- Their boards consist of community members.
- They build capital endowments to sustain themselves.
The focus areas of community foundations are often broad because they cater to an entire community. This may seem overwhelming at first, but it is actually favorable because you can potentially find funding for a wide variety of projects. You are not confined to a specified area, such as non-curriculum arts education, biochemistry equipment, or athletic programming. Whatever project you want to implement in your classroom, and whichever need you are addressing in your funding application, community foundations may be willing to consider it.
Advantages of Community Foundations
Foundations are looking for investments in the community, and schools offer investments that yield the most future profit. Education is an important focus area and it is likely that the more innovative your proposed project is, the more likely it is that your community foundation is interested in supporting it. Due to the geographic limits, the process might also be less competitive. You are not competing with grant seekers from all over the country or even the state. Because they have local donors that often include businesses, community foundations may be able to tap into resources for equipment, supplies, and other materials.
Another advantage of a local foundation is that they are likely familiar with your school (and maybe even a number of your students). It is also easier to visit the foundation and talk to the grants manager or program manager in person. On-site interviews and inspections are easy to schedule and the personal connection and relationship with foundation board members can help develop your proposal.
How to Find Funding
If your region, town, or community has a local foundation, there is a good chance you already know someone who is involved in it, perhaps even a board member. If you are unsure where your closest foundation is, search for community foundations in your area. Next, get in contact with the foundation. Once you establish contact, have a conversation with the grants manager to determine how much money is available and how you should proceed with your application. Some community foundations make significant grants and they may also have contacts that can assist with supplies and equipment.
Stay in Contact
Whether you receive funding or not, you should stay in contact with your community foundation. They are looking for involved and active members of the community, and will appreciate your enthusiasm. Remember, you and the community foundation share the same goal: making a lasting impact in your community.