How Do I Find a Donor?

It is not too difficult to find potential donors and grantmakers.  The difficulty is finding the right grantmaker for your organization and your program(s).  There are hundreds of thousands of organizations that give money or provide in-kind services each year.  The database of Grantsmart contains the public record tax returns (IRS Document 990-PF) for 103,193 private foundations and charitable trusts.  Add in the millions of individuals who give money, goods and service time each year and the list of possible donors is virtually limitless.


And that is exactly the point.  If you want to be successful in obtaining grants you must “limit” your search for donors and grantmakers.  Actually, a better word is “focus.”  Learn to focus your search efforts.  Here is some great advice on researching funders direct from The Foundation Center website:


“Researching funders that will turn out to be good prospects takes time, but the results should be well worth this investment.  Be realistic in your expectation.  Foundations and other grantmakers cannot meet all or even most of your financial needs.  The vast majority of the money given to nonprofit organizations is actually donated by individuals.  Foundations and corporations combined currently provide approximately 16.5% of all philanthropic gifts, but their grants can make up an important part of your support.

Do not make the mistake of focusing all your efforts on one ‘ideal’ funder.  Your prospect list should include a number of options.  Even the most experienced proposal writers receive many more letters of rejection than they do grants.  You should avoid compiling a list of several hundred ‘pie-in-the-sky’ prospects and sending off a mass mailing of your proposal.  Approaching a funder for support is a highly individualized process that should be conducted in a businesslike manner.”

Great advice – from the experts!  There are several key points in those two paragraphs that we will discuss in future posts.


As you focus your research note the following common limitations:

  1. Geographic – many foundations and corporations limit eligibility for grants to specific geographic areas.  Observe and respect this!
  2. Financial – What is the range of grants that this foundation makes?  If they state that no grant will exceed $10,000, don’t ask for $25,000.  Not only will you be rejected immediately, you will have earned a terrible reputation for not respecting the wishes of the grantmaker.
  3. Timing – Many foundations have specific time frames for considering grant applications.  By all means, respect this – submitting your application late – even by one hour means instant rejection.
  4. Type of Grant – The foundation will most likely state the type of grants (operational, programmatic, endowment, etc.) that they will fund.  This is mandated by the charter of each foundation and you must respect it.  We will discuss this further in a subsequent post.


To assist you with your research I once again point you to The Foundation Center’s website.  Here is the URL for a practical and concise “Prospect Worksheet.:  This is for institutions but they also have one for individual prospects.  You have your choice of format: PDF, Word, Excel, etc.  This is an invaluable tool – please take advantage of it!

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