A great way to determine a foundation’s giving practices is to look through their Form 990-PF. The IRS requires private foundations to share this financial information. And it can lend significant insight into their grantmaking.
The 990-PF can help you learn more about which nonprofits a foundation donates to, where they are located, what types of programs they fund, and typical grant amounts. I find that a foundation might state its goals and guidelines through the Foundation Directory Online or on their website, but their 990 tells the real story of what happens in the boardroom when it’s time to cut the checks.
The most recent 990 available is usually the most helpful, but it’s a good idea to look through a few 990s to pick out long-term patterns.
You can find 990-PFs in the Foundation Center’s free 990 database, on GuideStar, and sometimes on foundations’ websites, though the latter is rare. Once you’ve opened a 990, scroll down towards the end, where the information you need is likely buried. Locate Statement 12, which is the declaration of grants and contributions for that fiscal year.
Note the charities donated to, their programs, locations, and award amounts. If your ask doesn’t mesh with those on the 990, it’s probably time to find another funder.
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