Four Keys For Successful Foundation and Corporate Fundraising


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Earlier in my career, I worked for a training and technical assistance service provider with significant revenue from foundations and corporations. What was the key to success? It was targeted fundraising based on the needs of the donors.

Unfortunately, many organizations take another approach. They send a shower of requests hoping one might land in the right spot. As a board member of a grantmaking organization with no paid staff, I review requests that are based on this “shower" approach. They have little chance of being funded. Why? In most cases, the requests either do not relate to our grantmaking initiatives or the amount of money requested is well above our capabilities.

In the current fundraising environment of fewer dollars and more nonprofits, you can't afford to waste your time and resources. There are four keys to more successful fundraising.

Be clear about who you are

You must be clear about:

The community need you are addressing

How your mission addresses that need

The precise activities or services for which you are seeking support

Who will benefit from these activities or services

Your expected outcomes

Your measures of success

The type and amount of resources you need to achieve your desired results

Invest in prospect research

Once you are clear about your needs, shift your focus to the needs of your potential donors. Learn their history and their unique interests. Learn their guidelines, policies and grantmaking procedures. Learn their funding patterns, including the specific types of grants and the dollar amounts. The more information you gather the more likely it is that you will be able to find a realistic match.

Create value

All nonprofits exist to make a difference. But in order to attract funding, you must be able to answer two key questions: Will your request help the donor meet their philanthropic goals? In what specific ways will the donor benefit from contributing to your organization?

If you can develop a compelling statement describing “what's in it for them", you have probably found a good match.

In addition, you must demonstrate that you are a mission-focused, results-oriented organization by:

Presenting a well-developed plan for implementing and evaluating your activities Providing evidence of your competence and capacity to deliver Documenting that you will be able to sustain your proposed activities.

Build community partnerships

Foundation and corporate funders receive many more requests than they are able to fund. They are keenly aware of the duplication that is prevalent in the nonprofit sector and the large number of nonprofits requesting funds to address related issues.

Corporations and foundations are more likely to fund requests (and to give higher amounts) if the work plan demonstrates a true partnership among several organizations. Working through turf and other issues is difficult, but it is worth the effort.

All of us spend a great deal of time raising money from corporations and foundations. Investing time and resources in researching the most likely prospects increases your chances for success. Focusing on the benefits prospects will gain from supporting you will increase your chances even more.

Judith Rothbaum helps talented nonprofit professionals and volunteers grown their business and think more boldly about who they are and the changes they create in their communities. Visit to learn more.

She has worked with, and in, nonprofits for over 20 years. She is a foundation trustee and is a resource development instructor for the APHA Maternal and Child Health Institute. She publishes a monthly e-newsletter which is available at no cost.


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