Consider yourself a matchmaker. An important part of your job as you seek foundation grants is to identify and nurture successful matches between your station and potential funders.
Whenever you apply for a grant, you will be competing with a host of other organizations and projects. As the foundation reviews the proposals, it will look for those that show the best fit with its interests, mission, and goals – both stated and unstated. You will save yourself time and increase your chances of getting a grant if you focus your energies on those foundations that are the best match with your station, your project, and your community.
Many foundations that support public media do not explicitly include media in their list of priorities. So, how do you identify a match? You have already worked on defining the projects that your station would like to pursue. You have also begun to research foundations that make grants in your region and have interests that appear to converge with your own. This is when you put that information together to determine which foundations are the most likely to support your initiatives.
Here are some key questions to ask:
Do the foundation’s stated goals and mission converge with your station’s mission and goals?
Does the foundation’s actual giving indicate that it would be likely to support your project?
The truest indicator of a foundation’s commitments is in the grants that it makes. There are multiple ways to find information on a foundation’s grantmaking, but the two easiest and most accessible are:
- Looking in the foundation’s annual report online
- Going to www.guidestar.org and reviewing the foundation’s tax return which will include a list of all grants made during that tax year (990-PF)
Does the foundation support organizations that are like-minded?
Look for grants to organizations that are similar to yours in mission, action and spirit. Does it show an interest in community-building, in public affairs, in education and the arts? Stations, especially in smaller cities or rural areas, should also pay particular attention to where the foundation makes the grants. If a foundation is supporting other significant organizations in your local community (e.g., museums, libraries, theaters), it may well be receptive to the argument that it should also support you as an important community resource.
Does the foundation make grants in amounts that generally match your need?
If you’re looking for $500,000, a foundation that maxes out at $15,000 probably isn’t a great match except as part of a group of funders. Likewise, it is possible to ask for too little. Asking a foundation that routinely gives $100,000+ grants for a $2,500 project may cause your request to get set aside or lost in the shuffle.
Do you have history with the foundation and, if so, what is it?
If you’ve got history (past grant, past contacts) and it’s good, pat yourself on the back, continue to build the relationship, and consider asking for a slightly larger grant. If you’ve got history and it’s very old, very limited, or negative, you will need to consider ways to get a fresh start. Either way, you need to know what the history is before going forward with a new request.
Does the foundation’s timeline match with your own?
Many foundations take 4-6 months to review and approve a grant request. If you need funds next month, you don’t have a match.
Do you have any other reason to think that this foundation is a good match for us?
This could include: a strong contact between one of your board members and someone at the foundation; information that the foundation is, for instance, taking a new interest in media; a change in the foundation’s board or direction, etc.
Bear in mind that matches evolve. Sometimes, a foundation that looks like a so-so match will later grow into a great partner. Other times, foundations that look like natural matches never actually award a grant. As you learn more about foundations and develop relationships with them, you may see potential matches that were not obvious earlier.