Obtaining foundation grants to support your work is much like successfully matching animals and adopters:
Everyone looks for the best possible fit between the animal's needs and the adopter's wishes, expectations, and resources
Sometimes, what at first seems like an unlikely fit turns out to be an excellent match all the way around
Our Grants department has suggestions for ways to find non-ASPCA funders, and here are strategies to help you define your needs and who may best help you meet them.
1. List and package funding needs
Most foundations do not support general operations. But remember, your day-to-day work is made up of many individual programs and you may be able to get support for some of your operations.
For example, which of your operations could you present as a discrete program? Cat adoptions, spay/neuter, sanitation in your shelter, and foster care may be operations that you can single out for grant funding. How will the grant help you do that program better?
Listing everything you do and thinking about how to package your activities into programs will help open more funding doors. You will, however, have to use the money only for the purpose you presented. And you'll need to show how you intend to continue the work after the grant runs out.
2. Check out the Foundation Center
The Foundation Center is the resource for grant seekers in all fields. It offers up-to-date information about grant-making foundations, including statistics organized by categories such as population served, geographical region, and dollar amount. It offers a knowledge center where you can learn how foundations operate and how they approach grant-making; online training courses; classes and free access to an extensive searchable database of funders.
3. Research specific foundations
Researching foundations can seem a bit daunting at first, but it becomes easier the more you do it. Fortunately, most foundations have websites where you can learn about funding objectives and application requirements.
4. Look close to home
National foundations can be wonderful sources of support, but don't forget to look for nearby funders where you can develop ongoing relationships! Check to see if you have a community foundation that may be willing to fund your programs, and look at annual reports from local nonprofits for names of local family foundations. Visit your local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, which may also have a list of foundations in your area.
Many family foundations accept proposals only by invitation, but your Major Gifts committee may be able to help you get the nod.
5. Be creative
Don't limit yourself to foundations that focus on animals. Just because a grant maker doesn't list animal welfare as a focus doesn't necessarily mean you can't get support. Keep in mind that a foundation interested in aging populations might fund your Pets for the Elderly adoption program; a grant maker focused on low-income populations might fund your low-cost spay/neuter program; and a foundation interested in curbing violence might be eager to support your work if you make them aware of the demonstrated link between animal cruelty and human violence.
To get these funders' attention, you'll have to be clear and persuasive about the impact your program will have on a cause they have listed as a funding focus. With community foundations, the key is showing how your work makes your community a better place. For ideas about animal-welfare programs that affect the wider community, see Using Your Programs to Find New Donors. And check out these tips for going beyond the usual suspects.