Most larger, staffed foundations accept unsolicited applications from organizations, but many smaller, unstaffed foundations do not. Common reasons that a foundation will not accept applications include:
- it does not have the capacity to receive and review a lot of proposals
- it has an internal process for identifying and selecting its grantees each year
- it has been set up to benefit specific organizations
Our staff identifies a grantmaker's application acceptance policy from its Form 990, website or other communication materials, or by direct inquiry. If a funder does not accept applications, its Foundation Directory Online (FDO) profile will state "Applications not accepted" in the Limitations field.
To exclude grantmakers who do not accept applications when you search FDO, in the Search Grantmakers screen, click on "More search options", and check the box marked "Exclude grantmakers not accepting applications", located above the Search button.
Alternatively, on the left side of the search results page is a "Filter Your Results" box. At the end of this box, you can filter your results to include only funders who accept applications or not.
How can I approach them?
However, you may still want to approach foundations that don't accept applications, especially if their giving interests closely match your organization's needs.
Decide if the foundation really is a good prospect. To do this, look at the foundation's grants from the last several years to see what kinds of grants it has made. You can find links to 990s in FDO or at 990 Finder, our free tool to find these forms.
If the foundation makes grants to the same organizations year after year, you might consider other prospects. However, if it varies its grantmaking from year to year, has an interest in your field, and makes grants in your geographic area, it could be a prospect.
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 send a letter that introduces your organization and explains how it connects with the foundation's giving interests. Important: The letter should not include a funding request. However, it should ask how the foundation selects its grantees, and if you can meet with them or provide more information about your organization.
To learn more about building relationships with grantmakers, see also Applications Not Accepted: Get on Their Radar, our live chat transcript in which Foundation Center president Bradford Smith and grant writing consultant Pamela Grow answered questions on how to approach foundations that do not accept unsolicited proposals.
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