Where do they get their money?
September 9, 2009 6:04 PM   Subscribe

How do I find out who's been giving grants to a non-profit foundation?

I'm doing some research on a foundation, considering applying for a position with them. One of the things they're looking for is someone to help with grantwriting --- and I'm wondering how to find out who they're getting grants from currently, to better understand how they see their mission and what funding options they're already pursuing. I've had some success digging up one of their major donors though googling, and I know they have an endowment, but I'm not sure how to find out about the rest. I've looked up their filings with the state charity regulator, but they don't seem to list the names of the granting organization, and neither does their annual report.
posted by Diablevert to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You might check out GuideStar or the Foundation Center.
posted by jacob at 6:15 PM on September 9, 2009

Do they put out an annual report? Annual reports are often available online or simply by requesting it (have someone else ask for it if you don't want them to know it is for you). The Foundation Center is better if you have a subscription to its higher end services. I don't know how much Guidestar tells you but with the professional subscription to Foundation Directory I have access to organization's Form 990 (public record anyways) which lists (most often) who they make grants to -- so it is possible to search 990s to see who is giving to the foundation that you are curious about which would be recorded on their 990. I have also had tremendous luck simply by googling. Many foundations, corporations, etc will put out a press release when they make a large donation to another organization (though, of course, not all will) and google can dig these up from quite a long time ago. If you are comfortable posting the foundation's name or email it to me I'll try it in Foundation Directory.
posted by fieldtrip at 6:52 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Foundation Directory Online (FDO) is a product of the Foundation Center... in case that was confusing.
posted by fieldtrip at 6:53 PM on September 9, 2009

Response by poster: >Fieldtrip Yes, perhaps I wasn't clear enough before. Their 990s and their annual reports are precisely what I have looks at. Their annual report thanks individual donors with the usual cavalcade of rankings, but I was more interested in the grants they'd applied for and received.
posted by Diablevert at 8:56 PM on September 9, 2009

Annual reports often thank the grantmakers who contributed to them. I guess this organization doesn't do that which is a little strange.

In regards to the 990 I don't mean the 990 of the foundation that you are researching. I mean that you can search all of the other 990s out there and see whose mentions your organization. Typically grantmakers list all of the grants that they make that year: the name of the organization, the dollar amount, and the specific program.

Without knowing more about the foundation it is harder to guess other places to look. If it was a zoo or something I'd ask what the names of the buildings are: Conoco pavillion? Xcel Energy plaza? Or, a lot of institutions have a Wall of Fame sort of thing in the lobby (e.g. the contemporary art museum that I go to has a wall with the names of major donors (including grantmakers) in the reception area.

Can you find any articles or anything about the organizations founding and history? Who was the founder(s)? Why was it founded? Did the founder(s) provide the initial funding or did they go and find it? Sometimes you can dig things up on the board members (are any from the same family or industry or some sort of connection?).
posted by fieldtrip at 9:21 PM on September 9, 2009

Guidestar will give you the 990, as aforementioned, which will tell you funding sources - but it won't tell you the actual grant - and in many cases, there may not actually be one. Keep in mind that a lot of NP's get funding from foundations through a personal connection, or are sought out by the foundation, etc...so there may never have been a RFP proper at all. The answer really is - there isn't an easy answer. It will take a lot of googling, etc. Get the 990 and look at the funding sources. Google the funding sources and try to match it with the grant. Or if the state in question has a Foundation Databook, that might be quite helpful as well. Sometimes the NP will list the funders on their website or other promo material, but rarely will they list the actual grant.

Most funders, however, will list what grants they've made and to whom - again the googling and hunting down the websites of the funding sources. Federal and state grants will be easy to track down, local family foundations and the like will be a lot more difficult.

The easiest way is probably just to call the development dept. of the NP you're interested in - though because you're interested in a position with them, this might be a bit tricky. And keep in mind that lots of foundations (like, say, NEA or IMLS) offer a whole myriad of grants, so even if you can find out that the foundation is supported by some such org, you still don't have the info on the particular grant.

Fieldtrip's advice is truth. You just have to dig. For your purposes, you can find out a great deal about a foundation's mission by just taking a gander at their 990 and googling appropriately. However, keep in mind that lots of foundations and NP's get funding sources from a vast array and often weird mix of orgs. As someone who works in grant writing, I apply to and get funding from a whole host of foundations and corporations that, on face value, may not seem to do anything related to the NP I work for.

All of that said, the actual grants they receive - without seeing their actual application - won't tell you a whole lot. You're probably better off looking at their mission statement, their annual report, their program initiatives, their future vision, their board members, etc etc. Funding is key, but it's only one component of an NP and what they are trying to do.

Good luck! And if you'd like more advice, I have a lot to say, so please feel free to mefi mail me.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:24 PM on September 9, 2009

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