How to Approach Foundations that only give to Pre-Selected Organizations

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Most of the larger, staffed foundations accept applications, with some general restrictions in place, from any nonprofits seeking funding.  However, many smaller, unstaffed foundations do not accept applications and will include a statement that they only give to “pre-selected organizations” or that “applications are not accepted.”

The most common reasons that foundations do not accept applications include:

  • The foundation has an internal process for identifying and selecting its grantees each year
  • The foundation has been legally established for the benefit of specific organizations
  • The foundation has been legally established by the donor/founder with specific restrictions on their giving procedures
  • The foundation does not have the capacity to receive and review a large volume of proposals

However, you may still want to approach foundations that do not accept applications if their giving interests closely match your organization’s mission and vision. Being added as a new recipient for grant funding by a foundation “not accepting applications” happens more frequently than one would think.

We suggest a three steps procedure for approaching pre-selected foundations:

  1. Decide if the foundation really is a good match

Carefully analyze the foundation’s Form 990s from the past several years to see the grants that have been awarded. Subscribers to our Christian Funding Directory can use the free 990 Finder to find Form 990s from specific foundations.

If the foundation makes grants to the same small set of organizations every year, you might want to consider other funding sources. However, if there are organizations that are only funded periodically or if new organizations appear each year this may be a prospective funding source.

Next, analyze the new organizations that appear on the Form 990 to see if they are similar to your organization in mission, vision, and geographic area.

If all of these factors indicate a potential match, proceed to step 2.

  • Use your networks

Give a list of the foundation’s board members and staff (along with their affiliations) to your board members, key donors, and influential supporters. Ask them if they know anyone on the list and if they are willing to introduce your organization to them. This is the most effective way of getting the foundation’s attention.

  • Send a letter of introduction

If you don’t have connections, you could still send a letter that introduces your organization and explains how it connects with the foundation’s giving interests. However, this letter should NOT include a request for funding. Instead, the letter should provide a brief description of your organization, ask how the foundation selects its supported organizations, and request to meet with them or provide more information about your organization.  This letter should be one page maximum!

Building a relationship can be a long process, but worth the effort. Remember these organizations are known to be very loyal to the organizations they fund, and if invited to apply you will most likely develop a long term funding partner.

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