Applying for Foundation and Corporate Grants

Sources of Information

The State Library’s Grants Manager has compiled a series of links to grantmaking foundations that may be of interest to libraries. Additional links to the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, the Foundation Directory Online Quick Start and others may also be helpful. This page provides links to sources of information about grant preparation.

Preparing Winning Foundation & Corporate Grant Applications

Successful grant writers understand the grantmaker’s view of the world and express that view in their grant proposals. Successful grant writers are able to reflect the “priorities” of the funder. Too often, applicants focus on their own need for funds instead of matching their projects with the grantmaker’s priorities. Proposals are funded when they express the grantmaker’s priorities. Projects are rejected when they don’t.

Funders want you to identify a problem involving a need to help people and to tell them how your program can solve that problem. They are looking for very creative solutions to problems that you can not solve without their funding.

Approaching Foundations

A foundation is a non-governmental, non-profit organization which has a fund or endowment that it uses to aid charitable, educational, religious or other agencies serving the public good. It makes grants primarily to other non-profit organizations. Each foundation has its own specific priorities and interests which determines the types of programs it supports. These preferences, any program restrictions and requirements for applying will be included in the Foundation’s guidelines.

Some foundations make their money available for:

  • specific purposes, e.g., building funds, operating support, equipment, seed money
  • specific populations, e.g., children, minorities, frail elderly, homeless
  • specific types of organizations, e.g., libraries, hospitals, universities, boy’s clubs
  • specific geographic areas, e.g., city, a county, a state, a region

Contact foundations that have already supported projects similar to yours; that award the type of support you seek; or that typically award grants in your geographic area. Carefully evaluate descriptions of potential funders’ guidelines to find those that match your needs. Submitting an inappropriate or irrelevant application is a waste of time for both you and the funder.

Foundations often require a letter proposal which contains:

  • a brief two to five page document that concentrates on the problem and solutions for the proposed project;
  • an introduction that describes your library and a brief description of the project which is done in such a way that clearly shows that it is compatible with the foundation’s priorities; and
  • a description of the library’s track record implementing projects of this kind and how this project fits into the library’s overall organizational goals. The library’s organization’s qualifications, or credibility, may have more to do with being funded than anything else.

Approaching Corporations

Typically, corporations give to non-profits whose programs benefit the communities where their employees live and work. Corporate support can be cash grants or in-kind gifts.

Most corporations follow a concept of “profitable philanthropy”. Your challenge is to describe your project in terms that will benefit them. Your presentation to corporate funding officials must emphasize what they are buying with their grant e.g., prestige, employee satisfaction, publicity that gives them a good corporate image as a generous philanthropist in the community, etc. Corporations are very cost conscious. Challenge grants, dollars awarded to match other grants, have special appeal because corporations feel they are getting the most for their money.

Most corporations have a very unstructured application process. Personal contact is especially important here. In your letter proposal show in concrete terms how their grant to you will benefit them. Try your answers out on your own corporate board members before you present them to the corporate funding officials you are soliciting.