Finding sources is the most difficult part of the grant writing process. You can write grant proposals all day, but if you don’t have anyone interested in funding you, you’re out of luck.

In almost every case, the funder will award a grant to a nonprofit that can help the funder further its mission and extend its reach.

The funder has the money and the desire to do good work, but the nonprofit has the knowledge and the programs to match the funder’s mission. Your job as a grant writer is to make the perfect connection between the nonprofit and the funder.

So, let’s start working on the process of finding funders. There are several different categories of funders that you’ll encounter in your research. Private or family foundations are a great place to start, especially if they are in your geographic area.

Private or Family Foundations

A private foundation is a nonprofit that is formed to distribute money and offer the donors tax write-offs. In order to keep their nonprofit status, foundations are required by the law to give away a certain amount of money to nonprofits (charities) each year.

Private foundations are frequently established by a family to support good works in their community. Family foundations usually have a definite focus, geographic limitation, or are interested in projects that benefit the community where they are located.

Sometimes the founders have passed away and their children and grandchildren are operating the foundation. Unfortunately, when the operation of a foundation passes on to the next generation, the focus may change.

The family members may live in different areas of the state or country, and they may lose interest in the very community for which the foundation was originally set up. If there are no family members left, management of the foundation may even go to the trust department of a bank.

How to Contact a Private Foundation

When you check directories and databases for private foundations in your area, make note of how to contact them. The foundation profile in the database will provide you with plenty of information on the foundation. (Don’t expect them to be as formidable as the family in the photo above.) If it’s allowed, call the foundation to make a personal contact. If not, perhaps you can strike up an email conversation.

The old saying is still true: People give to people. Develop a relationship with the foundation personnel, get to know the gatekeeper, ask questions, and provide information about your organization. Don’t be a pest and don’t ask questions that are already answered on the website.

Just remember, the closer to home your prospect is, the better chance you have to be seriously considered for a grant, so focus on foundations that are local or who fund locally.

Not sure where to find a list of foundations in your area?

I use GrantStation as my number one research tool. I can use it right at my desk, which means I don’t have to go to a library or other location to look for funding sources. What a time saver for me! Check this directory out at They’re having a sale on memberships right now, but DON’T buy from them yet.

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