Approaching a Foundation

One of the most difficult things every fundraiser learns to do is to ask for money. Sitting across from a potential donor, knowing that you are about to say, “…would you consider a gift of…” can be a truly nerve-wracking experience.

When I teach classes in grant research and writing, I always start of by saying that foundations have a lot in common with individual donors- they must be courted, communicated with, thanked, and stewarded in many of the same ways to create a long-term relationship.

But one important way donors and foundations differ is in how they decide to give money. For an individual donor, the decision to give charitable funds is a personal one. Whether made for financial, or humanitarian, or religious reasons, an individual gives when they are moved in some way, because you are asking that person to give money they might otherwise keep.

A foundation exists to give. More specifically, a foundation exists to further a goal through the wise investment of funds in programs.

This is why the one of the most important steps in grant writing is research. You must do your due diligence and identify foundations whose goals closely align with the goals of your organization. Then, when you approach that foundation, it is important to think of your request less as “trying to get money from them” and more as offering them an avenue to accomplish their work through your program.

More and more, foundations are seeking to partner with their program grant recipients. They are seeing their grants as long-term investments as opposed to one-time gifts. This makes two things very important: targeted research to ensure you are proposing your program to the foundation best suited to be your partner; and cultivating strong, on-going relationships with those foundations.

If you know your mission and values are closely aligned with those of the foundation you have identified, you can approach that foundation with confidence.

Kelly is a Consultant for Sims & Steele with experience in foundation and donor research, grant writing and reporting, general fundraising, and project management.

Kelly is a Consultant for Sims & Steele with experience in foundation and donor research, grant writing and reporting, general fundraising, and project management.