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Knowledge Base

Why do some foundations give only to pre-selected organizations? How can I approach them?

Most of the larger, staffed foundations accept applications from grantseeking nonprofits, but many smaller, unstaffed foundations do not. Common reasons that foundations do not accept applications include:

  • the foundation has an internal process for identifying and selecting its grantees each year
  • it has been legally set up for the benefit of specific organizations
  • it does not have the capacity to receive and review a lot of proposals
FDO screenshot: Not accepting applications

Our staff identifies a grantmaker's application acceptance policy from its Form 990-PF, Web site or other communication materials, or by direct inquiry. If the funder does not accept applications, its Foundation Directory Online profile will state "Applications not accepted" in the Limitations field.

If you want your search in Foundation Directory Online to exclude grantmakers who do not accept applications, check the box marked "Exclude grantmakers not accepting applications", located above the Search button on the Search Grantmakers screen.

Foundation Directory Online is our searchable database of grantmakers and their grants. To search from your own computer, subscribe online. To search it for free, visit our locations nationwide.

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 Form 990s from the past several years to see the grants it has made. 990 Finder is our free tool to find Form 990s.

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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See also our related Knowledge Base articles:

- How do I approach a foundation and build a successful grantee-funder relationship?
- How do I find foundation grants for my nonprofit?
- Proposal writing articles

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