Obviously it’s impossible to make a blanket statement and say that “all foundations want x,” but there is one thing all foundations want to know:
Can you be trusted?
If they can reasonably answer that question, “Yes,” then you will go far in the grant-seeking process. If not, your application will likely be one of the ones that ends up in the circular file.
A large part of establishing yourself as trustworthy happens after you have received a grant. Did you spend the money as planned, or did you go off budget? Was the purpose for which the money was planned accomplished? A careful accounting of money spent will cement your reputation as an organization that is well-run and able to do what you promised.
What are some other things foundations are looking for?
• Probably the most important point grantmakers will consider is whether or not your cause is a worthy one, in their view. Of course, one man’s worthy cause is another’s waste of time, which is where smart research on your part comes in. Discovering foundations whose stated aims are the same as yours is half the battle when it comes to actually getting grant money
• Grantmakers will also look at is whether or not you will be able to solve the problem with the proposed plan. For that reason, it’s important that your grant proposal or project be well-thought-out and carefully crafted to show that yours is the best way to solve teen pregnancy, or the spread of HIV, etc. In addition, you must be able to demonstrate that your organization can indeed achieve the plan you have set forth.
• An additional question grantmakers must consider is whether or not you can reasonably expect to achieve the goals with the budget you have proposed, and whether or not this is cost-effective or unreasonably lavish. Keep this in mind as you put together a budget for your grant proposal.
• Are there any other organizations in the area doing the same work as you? If so, make sure you address that particular issue in your grant proposal: Why should they give money to you and not to one of the other organizations in your area? What do you do that no one else does? Whatever you do, don’t pretend the other organizations don’t exist—it’s like ignoring the proverbial elephant.
• Alas, there is often still some “who you know” element to foundation money raising. Although you can rant and rave about how it’s not fair, the smarter thing to do is find out if you do in fact have any connections through staff, friends, or acquaintances to any board members or trustees of foundations. If you do, it can do nothing but help.
Remember, sowing seeds of faithfulness now with money you receive will reap you a harvest of grants later on.