. A great way to determine a foundation’s giving practices is to look through their Form 990. With regard to private foundations, this form is specifically called the Form 990-PF. The IRS requires private foundations to share this financial information. And it can give you 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 Form 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 might notice that a foundation seems to give money to the same charities each year. Or perhaps they never fund the same organization more than twice in a row. These clues are all helpful as you make a fundraising plan.
You can find 990-PFs in Candid’s free 990 database, on GuideStar, and sometimes on foundations’ websites, though the latter is rare. Once you’ve opened a Form 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 Form 990, it’s probably time to find another funder. That way, you won’t be wasting your time applying to a foundation that is very unlikely to fund your programs. We recommend a focused approach to grant writing, with fewer applications sent to very targeted donors, rather than a scattershot approach. You’ll save time this way, and have a much higher rate of success.
Learn more about our grant writing services here.