Recently we received an interesting question via Twitter:
It seems impossible to have a grant accepted w/o having an existing relationship with a foundation. How can we tackle this?
Indeed, writing a grant and submitting it without ever contacting a foundation, and without an existing personal relationship or connection to the people who will be reading the application and making the decisions, can put you at a disadvantage.
That is largely the truth across the board, though some foundations are clear with how they award grants. They’ll publicize a point system, for example, and that lets you know they’re not just giving money away to the people you know. The playing field is a level one.
In other cases, small family foundations may make grant awards to only one or two organizations a year (which you’ll see listed on their 990s). That’s really not a good place to be focusing your time and efforts.
And the vast majority fall into the gray area in between these two polarities. If you can, make contact with a foundation and ask questions, set a meeting, or simply verify that your nonprofit is a good fit for their funding goals. Write a great application, and then follow up, even if you’re rejected, to learn more and gain a better understanding for next time.
We advocate as much open communication with a foundation as they’ll welcome, as well as resubmitting in the hopes of having your grant application accepted the next time around.
Careful and thorough prospect research, too, will help you make determinations on where to apply.