Donor Centric Grantsmanship

Sections of this topic

    It’s Not About Me; It’s About You, Really !!
    Relationships are at the heart of all fundraising activities, and grants are no exception. Just like dating, the nonprofit grantee needs to find a compatible match in a prospective grantor.

    But, unlike a good date, the grantee/grantor relationship is very one-sided. It REALLY is all about the grantor.

    Given the proliferation of U.S. public charities – just over one million in 2010, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics – coupled with the current economic climate, foundations are the much-courted belle-of-the-ball. And, like public charities, foundations have also been pinched by the economic downturn.

    As per IRS regulations, private foundations are required to distribute about 5% of their assets annually for charitable purposes. So, when the market is down, their assets generate less income, so they give less.

    According to the Foundation Center, grantmaking by private, community, and operating foundations fell by almost 9% in 2009 – figures aren’t out yet for last year.

    In addition to financial constraints, foundations are also limited to the charitable purpose(s) established by their donors and managed by their trustees. Unlike individual donors, foundations usually have a well-documented purpose that they are trying to fulfill by making grants.

    They are looking for nonprofit organizations that can help them make the changes/improvements in the world that are their raison-d’etre, and deliver the services and outcomes that matter to them.

    What should you look for when courting prospective foundations?

    Most importantly, look for a foundation with a “purpose” that has significant overlap with your organization’s mission.

    If, for example, your mission is to rehabilitate wildlife, then you should be looking at foundations that identify animal welfare as a priority. Conversely, if you are a charter elementary school, then a foundation that funds higher education is not a good fit.

    So, when your intended foundation partner breaks-up with you after the first date (or rejects your first proposal), try not to feel hurt. Just do a better job prospecting for your next match … it might be the one made-in-heaven.


    Lynn deLearie Consulting, LLC, helps nonprofit organizations develop, enhance and expand grant programs, and helps them secure funding from foundations and corporations. She can be contacted at