Foundation funding is an option to be considered, particularly when projects have a public dimension. Foundations vary from those with vast resources and significant experience funding higher education (such as the Rockefeller Foundation or the Mellon Foundation) to small family-owned foundations aimed at addressing public needs. All foundations, however, have a specific set of guidelines or priorities that guide their funding decisions. As you research foundations, look for significant overlap between your project and stated foundation priorities. Also check previously awarded projects to gauge how well your project aligns with a given foundation's priorities.
Use Internet databases, 990 tax returns, and foundation websites to learn about the funding priorities, amount of giving, geographic location of giving, and giving histories of specific foundations.
- Foundation Directory Online
- This searchable database holds information on more than 80,000 foundations. It provides information on foundations' and corporations' funding priorities, past grant recipients, and current RFPs, and more. It can be searched using keywords, locations, foundation/corporation name, and so on.
- Minnesota Council on Foundations
- This organization offers subscriptions to a searchable database of Minnesota foundations. Non-subscribers can gain access to some information about Minnesota foundations.
- U of M Corporate and Foundation Relations
- List of Private Funding Opportunities: The purpose of this list is to share current funding opportunities available from private funders that are aligned with programs and research University-wide. If you are interested in pursuing any of these opportunities, please consult with your department administrator and your development staff.
Once a foundation whose funding priorities are a good match with your project is identified, research the foundation. Check their website and google the foundation to learn about other projects it has funded. If other awardees are in your network, contact them to learn about their experiences with the foundation.
Foundation websites that describe their funding priorities and proposal guidelines should not be treated as RFPs. Foundations refine/shift their priorities all the time, and it is better to open up a conversation with the foundation before you put time into developing a proposal than to write up a terrific proposal and send it in only to learn that the foundation is cutting back on their funding in your area. Think of the information available on a foundation website as that organization's initial contribution to a conversation; it is up to you, as a grant-seeker, to instigate that conversation.
The University of Minnesota Foundation is the designated organization to centrally manage the relationships between the University and philanthropic foundations. The Foundation Relations office also serves as a system-wide resource to assist faculty, grant administrators, and development staff in finding, submitting, and reporting on charitable grant funding. If you are a U of M faculty or staff member looking for help working with private foundations or submitting a proposal using University of Minnesota Foundation financial documents—or if you have questions pertaining to a potential submission and charitable grant administration—please email a copy of the proposal and your questions to email@example.com. If you need help with gift or grant determination, please email your question with any documentation to firstname.lastname@example.org.