MAXIMIZE YOUR CHANCE OF SUCCESS Six Strategies for Getting the Grant


April 20, 2017, Scandinavia House, New York City


By Susan Fields, CFRE


“Learn what the foundation is looking for when  reviewing proposals.”

JuWon Choi, Director of Learning, The Association of Junior Leagues



“Ask about volunteer support as a means of opening  the door to a corporate partnership.”

Jennifer Stula Rivera, Vice President, Global Philanthropy The Moody’s Foundation

“Determine the culture and funding interests of the foundation before writing your proposal.”

Ewa Lyczewska, Community Associate Eileen Fisher 

Are you tired of receiving rejection letters from foundations when it comes to funding your organization’s programs? Complex online applications, an escalating emphasis on metrics, and guidelines that never seem to fit your nonprofit’s mission can all be a source of frustration. The good news is that there are approximately 86,000 grantmaking foundations in the United States which according to Giving USA contributed $58.46 billion to nonprofits in 2016—representing about 16% of all charitable giving for that year. This highly informative NYC-AFP Educational Program provided event participants with tangible actions and ideas on how to obtain a portion of these funds. Follow the guidelines below and increase your chances of success!

Six Strategies for Getting the Grant

  • Determine if your organization is ready for foundation fundraising.Usually foundations only support 501c3 nonprofits with a Board of Directors and an audited report. It is important that your organization has a comprehensive fundraising plan utilizing a variety of fundraising vehicles--direct mail, special events, major individual gifts, corporate sponsorships, etc. Government and/or foundation revenues should total no more than 10 to 20 percent of your fundraising budget.
  • Learn how foundations do business.Many nonprofits have the mistaken notion that grant makers contribute money to any organization that appears to be a “good cause”. In fact, most foundations are motivated by a specific purpose—world hunger, medical research, homelessness, education, the environment, etc. Before “diving in” utilize various online resources such as the Foundation Center to learn how most foundations award grants and the various steps you must follow to apply.
  • Create a foundation fundraising plan.Determine the amount of staff time and financial resources dedicated to this effort as well as the goals and specific purpose for the funds—new programs, unrestricted operating, capital needs, etc. Because the foundation will be engaging you in a formal application process, (query letter, grant application, and/or detailed proposal) make certain that you have gathered all necessary data: organizational history, operating budget, program description/budget, impact on program recipients, etc.
  • Know the type and culture of the foundations you are targeting. Private foundations are funded solely by individuals, families, or corporations and tend to focus on specific causes as opposed to Community Foundations which raise their money from diverse sources and often fund a variety of needs within a given locality. Corporate Foundations almost always seek a “quid pro quo” in the form of brand marketing.  Also be open to the possibility of utilizing corporate volunteers for your organization in lieu of cash.
  • It’s all about the right fit! Apply only to foundations that fund programs that are a good match your organization’s mission, and meticulously follow their application guidelines. Keep in mind that every communication with the foundation is a form of interview that will inform the funder’s decisions. If you have a contact inside the foundation through a board member or another source, maximize the opportunity to connect by asking pertinent questions and learning more about the expectations of the funder.
  • What about grassroots organizations? Although it can be challenging to raise money for startups, smaller organizations (even those who are still in the process of becoming tax exempt) can obtain support from foundations and corporations that focus on fledgling nonprofits. Seek out local businesses that might be interested in your cause, or better yet, a Google search will provide a generous list of potential funders and websites that can provide further guidance and direction.   

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Susan J. Fields, CFRE, has worked in the nonprofit sector for 22 years. A former English teacher, she was a Development Associate in the major gifts department of the United Jewish Appeal and later served as Director of Institutional Advancement at Holy Cross High School in Flushing, Queens. Susan is currently a communications consultant to nonprofit organizations



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