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Saturday, January 20, 2018

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If You Could Address A Room Full of Significant Foundations in Texas What Would You Ask Them?
Jacqueline Beretta

January, 2014

Stimulating and exhilarating idea isn't it? The opportunity to meet and greet the foundations that might be interested in you is thrilling. Don't waste this opportunity.

Having had the opportunity to sit in audiences multiple times to hear major foundations speak about giving practices, it can be quite enlightening. Dialogues With Donors – Clinics – Roundtables - where the atmosphere is electric with eager grant seekers packed into rooms with Foundation Directors or Founders for a great opportunity.

Don't blow it

But, what should you ask? Did you remember to do your homework before this propitious occasion? My advice? I would ask precious few questions - relevant ones that I had not been able to answer through my own thorough research prior to this occasion.

Remember that the moment you open your mouth in front of God, your colleagues, and the Foundations - you are in the spotlight yourself. So you might as well make sure you seem intelligent and well informed - you know - dot your i's and cross your t's by doing your research ahead of the event. You can find out a lot about these generous philanthropists by reading all the articles and Around Texas news items TXNP has published about them in this website. But there are alwasy compelling questions you might ask that warrant answers.

Say thank you

I think that any nonprofit that gives a kind compliment to a foundation official will be treasured. Gratefully acknowledging that these foundation officials have traveled far to meet with your group is a kind gesture. A kind and gracious thank you or compliment in a public setting for a recent important grant to your community will help encourage warm relations with these grantors. These people are proud of their efforts to help make communities better. Foundations like to be remembered for the good things they do, just like nonprofits do.

What do you know? And what do you want to know?

One of the most interesting parts of the TXNP database addresses the Restrictions a nonprofit will face when writing to this Foundation – what could kill this proposal before it even reaches the board? And, as we all know, sometimes guidelines change, missions can be altered….the list can go on and on.

There are more questions to ask. Today foundations must follow up with reporting after a grant is made. It is very important to fulfill the expectations set by the foundation. Lets explore what some of more stimulating questions might be.

    1. While we all expect to celebrate our good intentions, what kind of evaluation policies have you set forth in to measure success? How do you plan to minimize your risk?


    1. What is your policy regarding record keeping?


    1. Will you want to participate actively in projects that you fund?


    1. What do you look for in an organization that encourages you to fund them?


    1. How do you set your agenda? Do you look at ways to solve the needs of the community, or does your foundation have an agenda that you must follow that addresses other?


    1. Do you support programs or support institutions? Are you looking for long-term impact or short-term impact?


    1. What would be cause for you to stop funding a project?


    1. Are you interested in opeing up a dialogue regarding some projects our organization has in mind for the future? Could we work together to sculpt a relevant project?


  1. If you helped launch a project, would you ensure their sustainability, or would you encourage independence?

What foundations think

On these occasions Foundations like to give an overview of their policies and preferences. They would like for us to understand that they receive far too many proposals than they can handle, so that we will know that the money they have to give is not infinite. They also like to explain to us why they might turn down a proposal, but that we should not take it personally. Their list of grants on the table is usually huge, and while they would liuke to fund every worthy cause, there just aren't enough dollars to go all the way around.
Usually foundations will entertian another proposal from you one year later if you are declined the first time. Do not despair.

Many of the questions asked could be answered easily by researching publications the Foundation itself publishes or by searching the TXNP database and its many articles and announcements of grants Around Texas, before the discussion. Many Foundation officials feel that these unnecessary questions waste their valuable time – as seen by the mystified looks on their faces. And remember, Foundations have guidelines of what they will and will not support – do not ask them to consider funding a project that they specifically say they will not fund. A good example is: Suppose you find a foundation that specifically states that it does not support education. You are a school and you see in their 990PF that last year they supported the ABC School for young ladies. Please understand that sometimes foundations are allowed to give discretionary grants and that might have been one of them. But, not the norm.

Research, Research, Research – the magic words

While you may think that it is wise to speak up and ask a question, no matter what the content at one of these occasions, think twice. Come across as intelligent and thoughtful – as one who did their homework.

Show the Foundation respect and let them know you took time to get to know them before you came.


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