Even though there's a saying that "When you've seen one foundation, you've seen...one foundation," a lot of grantmakers look for the same things in grant applications. We share this info with people who attend our classes, visit our offices, or browse our websites.

But we know that that same info means a whole lot more when it comes straight from a grantmaker's mouth. Meet the Grantmaker programs at Foundation Center offices and Funding Information Network locations are occasional events in which foundations and corporations talk about their grantmaking programs and take questions from the audience.

You can guess that these events are popular. When they feature nationally or locally prominent grantmakers, they are VERY popular. We understand completely: You (and we) like to get info straight from the source, even if it affirms stuff that you already know. You get a chance to pick the funder's brain during the Q&A session. Maybe you'll even get a few seconds of face time with the funders afterwards. (To get alerts about upcoming events, stay connected with your nearest Foundation Center location via its newsletter, blog, and/or social media channels.)

When you do come across a funder who looks for something different in their grant applications, chances are, some other funder down the road will ask the same thing. If you're not sure about what they're asking for, contact them. As long as a grantmaker hasn't stated clearly "Do not call" on its website or other communications, foundation staff are usually happy to talk with you since it's part of their work.

But I can't stress this enough: Contact a foundation only AFTER you've studied its giving interests and guidelines. This earlier blog post listed several other sources where you can find info that comes directly from grantmakers. After all, you only have one chance to make a good impression. An easy way to do that is to do your homework so you can ask smarter questions than, "Do you give grants for [your subject area here]?" This simple step can help you stand out among the many callers who aren't as prepared.

Based on your own experience, which view is more accurate: That age-old saying from the start of this post? Or do you see patterns emerging in regards to what funders want to see in their applicants? Tell us your thoughts in our Comments section.

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For more advice from the grantmakers themselves, see these items from our collection:

Click here to find more items about sustainability

How to Attract and Sustain National/Large Grantmaker Support (Podcast). With Darin McKeever, Deputy Director, Charitable Sector, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Virtual Coffee & Conversation with W.K. Kellogg Foundation (Webinar). Program Officer Linda Jo Doctor talks about the foundation 's Food & Community Program and Healthy Kids Initiative.

What Advice Do You Have for Organizations Approaching You For the First Time? and What Advice Do You Have for Organizations That You Turn Down? (Videos). Short answers from the Tiger Foundation, American Express, and the Ford Foundation.

Also check out The Chronicle of Philanthropy, which offers a lot of useful content to listen, watch, or read, like 3 Rules for Getting Gifts From Big Corporations, a podcast with Tim Hanlon, president of the Wells Fargo Foundation.

-- Sandy Pon

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