Are You the One?: Evaluating Potential Funders
Once you find a promising opportunity, it’s important to take the time to thoroughly evaluate the funder. Writing an application is hard work, and you want to be sure the opportunity is a good fit before you forge ahead.
Delve Into Their Funding History
You can gain a lot of insight just from exploring previously funded organizations and projects. Many foundations have a list or report on their website detailing the projects they’ve funded. If not, you can search for the foundation’s Form 990 to see the grants they made in a given year. Here’s a brief guide to reading a Form 990 if you’re unfamiliar with them. Note the types of organizations on the list. Are they similar to your organization? If you’re looking for a classroom grant, but the foundation hasn’t made any grants to schools, then it may not be a good fit. Also note the amount each grantee received, and try to figure out the average range of grants awarded. Ideally, your budget should fit into that range.
Read the Fine Print
The fastest way to tell if a foundation has potential is to thoroughly read their website. Start with the pages directly relating to the funding opportunity you’re interested in, but also read their mission statement, homepage, programming, previous grantees, and recent news. It may seem tedious, but you will get a strong sense of the funder and you will uncover any obstacles to receiving funding before beginning the application process.
A good way to get to know a potential funder in an informal setting is to follow them on social media. Their posts will give you a unique insight to what they care about most. If you decide to go ahead with the application process, interacting with the foundation on social media may even give you a leg up on the competition.
Make the Call
After researching the funding opportunity thoroughly, contact the foundation to discuss your proposal. Before doing so, make sure the foundation is open to being contacted by potential applicants. Due to a large number of proposals received or a small staff, some foundations prefer not to be contacted. If you’re able to contact the funder, use the opportunity to gauge their interest in the project and get a sense of how the proposal may need to be tweaked. Ask about the review process and what key factors the foundation is looking for in a proposal. Use this as an opportunity to develop a relationship with the contact person that you can return to during the application process.
After thoroughly researching the foundation, there should be no surprises in the application process. To gain insights into the application process from your successfully funded peers, visit GetEdFunding’s Success Stories page. The page features the stories of users who have secured grant funding from various foundations.