It is a competitive world when it comes to funding for nonprofits. That is just as true of foundation grants as it is for individual fundraising. There are many keys to success in seeking a grant but perhaps most important is to know what foundations are looking for in the nonprofits they might consider worthy of a grant.
Caroline Herbert of the Foundation Center teaches a webinar called Before You Seek a Grant: A Checklist for New Nonprofits, that covers the basics of what kind of nonprofits foundations look to fund.
I'm indebted to Joe Boland of FundRaising Success Magazine for his summary of that webinar. Here are the main points that Boland calls attention to in his article Nonprofit Characteristics Foundations Seek Before Making Grants:
- Are you registered as an IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity? This is fundamental for foundations. Most insist on it as a starting point. It's amazing how many people just get an idea and then go off looking for funds. It doesn't work that way.
- Where is your nonprofit in the lifecycle of a nonprofit? Fully functioning nonprofits don't just appear full grown. They go through typical stages, such as the idea state, startup stage, growth stage and mature stage. Foundations are looking for nonprofits that are already "on their feet," for the most part. An newly organized nonprofit might not meet the criteria.
- Do you have a compelling mission statement? Your mission should be different from other nonprofits...are you doing something unique?
- Do you have capable leadership? You need a qualified staff and an effective board.
- Do you have relevant programs with a good reputation for service delivery? How are your programs different than other nonprofits working in the same area? Can you demonstrate that your programs actually make a difference for those you serve?
- Do you have an efficient operation and good support systems? The question here is really about your ability to deliver on your promises.
- Does your nonprofit engage in organization planning and evaluation on a regular basis? Do you have a long-range plan? Do you evaluate your programs to see if they are really working?
- Do you have adequate facilities? This includes basic physical facilities but also technical ones. You need to have the tools that you need to function well.
- Are your finances solid and do you have diverse revenue streams? Foundations want to be reassured that you don't have all your eggs in one basket...especially theirs.
- Do you have a track record? If you are a new nonprofit, make sure that your leaders at least have a great history and plenty of experience. Demonstrating that your organization plans well can also compensate somewhat if you are a new organization.
Boland's article expands on these points so do check it out. Then ask yourself, does your nonprofit measure up? If not, then you might need to wait to apply for foundation grants.