How can I approach a foundation that does not accept unsolicited proposals?

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I have information about a foundation that awards grants in my state, but the most recent information states that it does not accept unsolicited proposals. How do I go about making a connection with the foundation so that a proposal from my organization might be solicited?

There are several potential approaches to consider. 1) Find out what organizations have received grants from the foundation. This information can be found on the foundations 990-PF tax return. Tax returns are available through Guidestar.org (free registration required) and the Foundation Center website (Fnd.org). Contact an organization that was awarded a grant--if possible one that is similar to your organization. Ask staff to share insights they may have valuable knowledge about the foundation, how it operates, and who you should talk to. They may even be willing to introduce you, or let you use their name to open the door. If you run into someone who doesn't want to share, be gracious and move on. But most people are quite willing to help.

2) See if any of your board or staff members know any of the Foundation's board or staff members. Use the list of Board members from their web site or from the 990-PF to dig for a connection. For example, did people go to the same school? Do they belong to the same civic groups, faith community, or neighborhood association? If you can find a connection, ask that person to help establish contact with the foundation. They may suggest a brief meeting for coffee, invite a foundation contact to visit your organization, or even just make a quick phone call-- whatever is practical. The goal of that contact is to introduce your organization, establish its credibility, and find out if there is an opportunity to apply for funding.

3) You could try the direct approach. Call the foundations staff or, if there are no staff, call a board member. Tell your contact that you've have been reading about the foundation and that it seems your organization's mission and the foundation's mission are aligned. Then inquire about the possibility of applying for funding. Even if there's not an immediate opportunity to apply for a grant, your contact is in fact beginning a relationship with the foundation. Send a thank you note, stay in touch, inviite the person to visit your organization, ask permission to put the person on your email newsletter list. You never know how things may change in the future, so keep your doors and relationships open. .