I attended some advocacy training recently and was made aware of some interesting points about community foundations. They have loads of different donors and lots of money to give away, but unfortunately, unrestricted funds (i.e. monies that the foundation itself can commit) are often less than 5% of that total. So, if you want to get money from them, there really isn’t much to go around. Your best chance of getting money for your library is to influence the donors so when they give the foundation money they can specify that the money is for the library – perhaps for a purpose close to their heart, like adult literacy or a certain collection. And if you need to finance capital improvements, which foundations generally won’t fund, this may be your only option.
However, you may be able to tap into monies with a designated purpose if you use your imagination. Look at the purpose of their grants. If you see monies earmarked for animals, perhaps you can get them to fund a program where kids read to dogs. If they have funds to help children, surely you have programs that meet that charge. Figure out what they are funding and how your library can meet their criteria. As our speaker said – we have a Dewey number for everything under the sun!
Be sure you don’t antagonize foundations by applying for grants where you don’t fit the profile. Never do a mass mailing – be sure to tailor your application to their funding profiles and do your homework. If you can’t make sense of their requirements, call the organization. They can guide you through the process with helpful suggestions and, may even give you leads on other avenues to pursue. Talking to them will also give you a chance to explain what you are doing, which means someone in their organization can elaborate on your intent when their board is making funding decisions.
Use your contacts. Three quarters of donated monies come from individuals (versus foundations or corporations), so let everyone know of your needs. Local not-for-profit corporations (e.g. many hospital foundations) are required to give a portion of their income back to the community to maintain their nonprofit status. Surely someone you know has a connection to them. Remember who owes you and call in those favors.
And ask your local utility company to sponsor your film series on the environment. Or maybe the phone company can sponsor your Senior Internet Training program. You’re their customer and they want to keep you happy.