Finding the right prospects

Today I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of research administrators in Boston about how to research potential foundation funders. I want to share these tips with you, too!

Prospect identification and research can be chunked out into four key steps:

1. Know the need. Gain a detailed understanding of the project or program in need of funds. What are the goals, proposed activities, anticipated outcomes, and timeline? Exactly how much money is needed, and for what?

2. Use the tools. From Foundation Directory Online and Guidestar to Associated Grantmakers -- all of which have free and fee versions -- there are some great tools available online to do thorough and targeted foundation searches.

3. Dig for data. Using the above links, you can locate a foundation's tax form 990. Scroll toward the end of the 990, and you will find a list of all grants the funder has made in that tax year. This often includes grantee name, amount and purpose. Many foundations also have great websites full of historical grant info and detailed funding interests. The more you can learn about a foundation's interests, the better your understanding will be of their potential alignment with your project.

4. Ask the funder. After you do all of this good sleuthing, call or email the foundation to ask for their guidance about your funding idea -- but ONLY if they allow such contact. Some foundations do not want to be contacted, and generally will make that clear in their guidelines. That being said, if outreach is okay, explain why you are calling/writing (to seek guidance about a possible submission), describe the project succinctly, and ask for their advice regarding next steps.

Happy hunting!

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