Your Best Foundation Funder is not your Best Funder Forever

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    Just as grade school friendships don’t usually last forever, neither do relationships between nonprofit organizations and their best foundation funders. Most grantmakers don’t want to provide ongoing operating support; i.e. – they don’t want to be your BFF (Best Funder Forever).

    Many foundations don’t make grants to the same organization every year. They may allow you to apply every other year or every third year, and this is usually clearly spelled out in their guidelines. Here is a real example from the St. Louis Philanthropic Organization, “if you received grants in 2010 and 2011 (two consecutive years), you are not eligible to apply for funding this year.”

    A good number of foundations will allow you to apply annually but are less likely to fund your NPO in consecutive years. Often, this is not spelled out in their guidelines, so your relationship with a foundation trustee or its manager is important. Give them a call before applying and ask for their advice. They might hint at this, saying something about providing grants to NPOs across the community. They might even tell you directly.

    A lot of foundations look to fund something innovative. They will provide “seed money” to launch a new project or program; but, once the program is up and running, they expect the nonprofit to fund its ongoing operation.

    This funding priority will also usually be spelled out in their guidelines — as with the Allen & Josephine Green Foundation: “…seed money to launch a new project or program is a desirable type of grant.” A discussion with a trustee or foundation manager prior to submission can also provide that information.

    And, if you have to pass up a grant one year because you don’t have a new project that needs funding, that’s OK. Don’t fall into the trap of designing a new project or program just to get grant money. For more information on this topic, see my post, “How To Better Manage Your Grant Program,” from February 2, 2012.

    You also need to remember that the economic climate affects foundations. And, as foundations give 5% of their assets, typically calculated on a 3-year rolling average, increases in their giving will lag any economic recovery.

    All these factors need to be taken into account when budgeting annual foundation income. And because the foundations that fund your NPO don’t want to be your BFF, you need to continuously prospect and cultivate new sources of foundation funding in order to maintain a steady income stream from this important revenue source.


    Lynn deLearie Consulting, LLC, helps nonprofit organizations develop, enhance and expand grant programs and helps them secure funding from foundations and corporations. Contact Lynn deLearie..


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