How to Identify Prospects


Foundations have particular interests and may choose to limit their grant making to certain geographic areas. It is the applicant’s responsibility to identify foundations with interests that align with the applicant organization’s programs and services.

Before an organization begins researching to identify foundation grant makers to support its programs and services, it is important to identify specific projects and services. Further, it will be helpful to assign costs to the projects and services. While some foundations will be capable of funding the total cost of a project, many will contribute a portion of the total cost. Locating the foundation’s giving history to determine how much each foundation is capable of giving is part of the prospect research process. It is common to ask several foundations to contribute to the same project to make up the total cost of the project or service.

To begin identifying foundation grant makers, it is recommended the organization make a list of connections that any of the staff, board, or agency volunteers have with foundation representatives, especially corporate foundations:

  1. List vendors and individuals with whom the organization conducts business (i.e., banks and financial institutions, insurance companies, office suppliers, etc.)
  2.  List area businesses that may be linked to corporations with charitable giving programs (i.e., McDonald’s restaurants, Office Depot, Proctor and Gamble, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Target, Best Buy, etc.)

Once the lists are completed, check to see if the business has a website and begin searching for information about the interests, limitations, restrictions, and application guidelines of each foundation. If the information about the foundation aligns with the applicant organization and project, it is a match to be pursued by submitting a Letter of Intent or grant proposal. Click here for Letter of Intent. Click here for Grant Writing Basics.

An organization’s best prospects are those foundations (1) located in the same geographic area; (2) that are known to fund similar projects for other organizations; and, (3) where the organization has existing relationships and contacts. It is recommended that an organization begin its search for grant makers by looking first for local grant makers, and then expand the search statewide, regionally, and nationally.

Resources in addition to foundation websites for helping to identify foundation grant makers include (1) The Foundation Center @, which provides databases containing information about thousands of foundations throughout the nation and is searchable using key terms and geographic areas; (2) Guidestar @, which provides free information about a foundation’s grant making based upon tax reports; and, (3) other search engines such as Yahoo or Google.  

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