Importance of Investigating Funders

As mentioned in #3 of our Four Factors for Success, one of the essentials is how well your vision and goals match that of the funder to whom you are submitting your proposal. Doing appropriate research up front will save you from wasted time and energy. Begin your search for funders on the internet and check directories found at your local library or in larger cities or specialized collections of fundraising sources. Beyond that, check the sources discussed in this section not only to find more funders, but also to learn more critical information about funders and what is most important to them. The more you know and the more you can incorporate that knowledge into your selection of and application to a funder, the better your chance of winning a grant award.

Perspective of Funders Regarding Research

The report How Foundations Work: What Grantseekers Need to Know about the Many Faces of Foundations quotes the Executive Director of the C.S. Fund as saying that they get too many proposals that reflect an obvious lack of homework regarding the funder’s priorities. The analogy of the applicant trying to buy groceries at a hardware store is particularly apt.  The types of homework required on the part of the applicant are described as including both research about the project itself and about the priorities of the grant maker.

Project information should include discussion about whether such a thing has been tried before and the results; whether others might partner on the project or if the applicant might be open to partnering, and potential other sources of funding. And funder research must include learning if there is solid evidence that they might be interested in a particular project, if they have funded similar ventures, and what has been learned from them. According to Joel J. Orosz of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, ” A good proposal describes the context of the idea and directly relates that idea and its context to the foundation’s programming interests.” That can only be achieved with good solid research.

Think your most important goal is to send out lots of applications? Not so.  Ilene mack of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation illustrates the importance of homework by saying that it is “more efficient and in the end more beneficial to send appropriate requests to fewer organizations than to send a shower of appeals in the hopes one may land in the right place.” She also points out that even if you’re not successful the first time around, the fact that your application was appropriate and well thought out will be remembered and remembered in the future.

Other grant makers bemoan the fact that the ease of searching and applying for grants electronically has meant that they receive far more applications than they can respond to thoroughly. You are more likely to receive consideration and a detailed response you can learn from if your application is appropriate in the first place. And, if the initial letters are not within specified guidelines they are immediately declined, and that applicant has wasted their own time as well as the foundations.