As grant writers, we’ve been there before. We’re on our 6th day (or more!) of foundation research when we find the perfect match: they give in our specific geographic area; interest area; population; the type of support we need; and clear of other restrictions. Score!
Then we see the dreaded checkmark on Page 10, Part XV of their 990 – they only contribute to pre-selected organizations. So what’s the next step?
First, it’s important to understand the most common reasons for foundations to check that box:
- Some foundations are set up to only give to specific organizations
- They have an established internal process set up for making awards
- Due to their small size, they are simply unable to process a lot of requests
Many people think it’s best to move on from these foundations and keep mining through the list. Don’t give up so easy! While these foundations may not be the first ones on your Funder Tracking Sheet you “attack”, you may still want to consider them as a possible funder to approach later. They don’t know who you are or the great work your organization is doing and may very well be interested in you. So keep them on your list!
Here’s the best strategy to approach foundations who only give to pre-selected organizations:
Be sure they’re a good match
Your first step is to ensure the foundation is a good match. Thoroughly review their past giving, annual reports, website (if applicable), and any details on funding restrictions. After reviewing, you should know if your organization’s mission and activities align with the funder’s priorities. This is sage advice for approaching any funder, whether they have that box checked or not.
Determine if there are any connections
If the foundation is a good match, your second step is to uncover any connections you might have. There are a few ways to find connections. First, share the foundation’s list of board members/trustees with your key stakeholders (board members, staff, volunteers). If any stakeholders have a connection, ask them to make an introduction for you.
You can also use LinkedIn as a source to view connections between your network contacts and the foundation’s board members, trustees, or staff. You never know if an old roommate is now a grants manager at a foundation you’ve been eyeing.
Lastly, be sure to visit and follow the foundation’s social media pages (if applicable) to see what they’re up to. Perhaps there’s an upcoming event you can attend to start building a relationship. Social media is also a great way to showcase the work you’re doing to potential funders and partners.
Consider sending them a short introduction to your organization
If you’re unable to make a connection, then it may be time to send them a brief letter of introduction. This letter WON’T include a funding request. The intent is to simply introduce yourself as a dedicated member of the community who is also working to achieve your shared mission. You’ll want to keep the letter concise. The letter should:
- Briefly describe your organization
- Make it clear you understand the foundation’s mission and giving history
- State your interest in getting to know each other
- Express interest in learning more about their funding opportunities
To show you’ve done your homework and have a true interest in developing a relationship with them, you’ll want to avoid a request in this type of letter. This step is essential as you’re trying to make a connection and want to be respectful. If their response doesn’t lead to an invitation to apply, don’t fret. You’ve done the important work of building a relationship and should the funder start accepting applications, you’ll be at an advantage.
Next time you see the “no solicitations” box checked, just follow these 3 steps and you’ll be on your way to building new funding relationships in no time.