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So often, nonprofit organizations are looking to “hit it big” with large grants from big, well-known foundations.

The competition for those grants is fierce and an organization can spend countless hours tracking and applying for these grants that they may have little chance of getting.

Instead, a tighter focus on a secret source of local grant money is a very effective strategy to pursue.

But what is this fantastic local resource? It’s your community foundation!

What is a Community Foundation?

A community foundation is usually a not-for-profit corporation set up to act as a manager for funds from multiple donors with multiple interests. Despite the number of donors and wide-ranging interest areas, there is a common theme – the funds are intended to benefit a specific geographic region.

Donors establish funds for a wide variety of purposes, ranging from scholarships, to benefiting specific charities, to supporting a particular cause. Other funds have been allocated for an area of interest (for example, animal welfare, community theater groups, or education), while other funds are for unrestricted grant making.

community - sign

The real secret about community foundations is that they don’t often make big splashy announcements about their grant deadlines, and they don’t always make information about all the funds they manage obvious to the casual observer. But a little homework in this area can really pay off for your organization:

1. Let’s assume you are starting at the very beginning of your research. First, find your local community foundation. The easiest way to do this is through an internet search, just type in your city or county name, followed by the term “community foundation”.

2. Once you’ve located a foundation, first review their geographical area of concentration to make sure that your organization will qualify for funding. If your city or unincorporated region does not have a community foundation, your county most likely does have one.

3. Now that you’ve located a foundation and confirmed your organization is within their region of interest, review their grant deadline dates and funds. A community foundation can have several grant deadlines throughout the year. Usually there are at least two deadlines during the year for the larger unrestricted funds. Then there may be several other deadlines for the smaller, more specific funds. The key is that these deadlines are recurring, meaning that once you’ve identified the application dates, they generally hold true year after year so you can plan your grant application schedule accordingly.

If you are having difficulty determining what the funds are and when applications are due, first check the website site map. This is generally a listing of the pages on the website and should give you a pretty big hint about what pages will contain applications and deadlines. If you still can’t find the information, contact the foundation staff for assistance. They are there to help you and a little relationship building with foundation staff never hurts.

4. Now, as with all grants that you are applying for, review the guidelines and application very carefully. The smaller, specialized funds may have their own guidelines and application, so be careful not to assume that the general foundation guidelines also apply to the smaller funds.

5. Once you have zeroed in on the foundation and researched the funds and guidelines, you’re ready to start writing those applications. And get ready for another “secret” about community foundations – they usually offer free grant writing courses, to help you with their application and with your overall grant writing skills. What a great resource!

By: Rachel Unell, Grant Gopher CEO. Drop by the GrantGopher website for the latest available grant announcements and free resources!

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