Saturday, September 28, 2013

Barbara Floresch: Foundation Tax Returns Invaluable to Grant Seekers

Grantseekers need the assurance that grantmaking foundations are good fits for their organizations.  How can they ensure this good fit? 

According to a tip from The NonProfit Times,

The information summarized in a funding database provides a glimpse of a private foundation's priorities and giving habits.  But savvy grantseekers know they need the full picture before making contact or submitting a grant proposal.

Foundation websites can fill in the missing pieces, but many foundations don't have websites.  What's the grantseeker to do?

Barbara Floresch, director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, CA, has a proposal for grantseekers: "first, use a database to identify foundations that seem like a good fit for your organization.  Then, if they don't have in-depth websites, go to, set up a free account, and take a look at the foundation's recent tax returns (990-PFs)."    

According to Floresch:

Foundation tax returns are public information and they’re invaluable to grantseekers. They provide not only information about assets and officers but also a complete list of grants awarded during the fiscal year – including the amount of each grant and the recipient’s name and location.

Examine each foundation’s 990-PFs to determine whether that foundation is truly a good fit with your organization’s work. For starters, look at several fiscal years to determine:

  • The average amount of funding granted to organizations similar to yours;
  • The average amount granted for the area in which you'll seek support (i.e., youth services, education, the arts, the environment);
  • Geographic preferences in grantmaking; and
  • Whether the foundation provides multi-year funding.

And what is the grantseeker to do with this information?  Use it to construct a well-informed plan of action and a well-targeted request for support.  While the 990-PF is not the place to start one's research, it can refine the grantseeker's understanding of a grantmaker.  Says Floresch: "When it comes to winning grants, thorough information is essential.  The 990-PF can help you fill in the blanks." 


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