Considering a Foundation for a Proposal

Consider the type of foundation

  • Is it national, regional, or local?
  • Is it a private foundation, family foundation, public foundation, corporate foundation, operating foundation, or a vehicle for individual giving?

Consider the foundation's history and current frame of mind

  • Read historical accounts to understand the basis for the institution's founding.
  • Learn from president and/or executive director's letters in annual reports; this is often where new directions are indicated.
  • Does it have a perpetuity or spend-down mindset?
  • Are there distinct political leanings?

Consider the age of the foundation

  • Is the founder still alive?
  • How old is the foundation?
  • How far removed from its original intent/mission is it?
  • How many years has it had staff?

Consider staffing

  • Is there any? How many are fulltime professionals?
  • What do program officers do?
  • Has the head of the foundation always been the same?
  • Don't overlook personal history of prominent staff.

Consider the foundation's grant-making approach

  • How does it think problems are best solved?
    • direct service?
    • research?
    • educating policy-makers?
    • advocacy and activism?
    • a mixture?
  • Does it run its own programs?
  • Does it use RFPs or have an open solicitation policy?
  • How many funding rounds a year does it have?
  • Is it accessible or tightly controlled?
  • Does it make site visits?
  • Does it use peer reviews?
  • Who makes decisions?
    • program staff
    • leadership staff?
    • board
    • family members

Consider all sources of information

  • Pay attention not to just what they say, but what do they do?

Consider that the foundation may evolve

  • Even when you think you know the answers to these questions, it may change soon thereafter!