Many school districts are finding that private foundations are a viable source of funding for classroom or schoolwide projects. Here are some tips for seeking grants from these foundations.

Private or independent foundations are usually established by a contribution from a single source, such as a family, individual, bequest, or group of individuals. Grant decisions are made by a board of trustees who often include the donors or members of the donors’ families. In most cases, private foundations restrict their giving to certain geographic regions and tend to fund only the program interests of the donors.

Start by identifying the private foundations that are in your immediate community. Chances are greater that you will receive support from a foundation in your own “backyard.”

An excellent resource is your local community foundation. These types of foundations are growing at a phenomenal rate, and many communities across the country have this funding source available. Community foundations receive contributions from multiple sources, including individual donors, corporations, and other foundations. Usually, grant-making decisions are made by a committee of local community representatives.

If you don’t know whether you have a community foundation, check with local nonprofit organizations, call your United Way, or log onto the Foundation Center web site and look at the Community Foundations list.

Your next step is to identify private foundations that are located in your state. To find out about these foundations, go to your local library and check if there is a state foundation directory available in the reference section. You should familiarize yourself with how to use this directory.

In the front of the directory, there should be a listing of the “areas of interest” or “fields of interest.” Grants given by foundations are categorized in these areas. Locate the areas that connect to your project idea to identify potential foundations in the directory. Some examples include Education, Environment, Youth Development, and Science and Technology.

Most directories will provide the following information for each foundation:

• Application deadlines;

• Types of support (i.e. general purposes, grants to individuals, special projects);

• Sample grant awards;

• Assets of the foundation and the dollar range of awards;

• Trustees and officers of the foundation;

• Contact information.

eSchool News also publishes a School Technology Funding Directory, complete with listings on private foundations from across the country. For more information, see the internet link below.

Many national foundations have web sites that contain the information found in a directory. You should also check with your telecommunications providers and technology vendors to see if they have a foundation available that makes grants to education.

Develop a list of foundations for further investigation, and contact them either by phone or by mail. Do not assume the information in the directory is the most up to date. Request a copy of the current giving guidelines and, if available, ask for an annual report from the latest fiscal year.

After reviewing these pieces from various foundations, it should be possible for you to narrow the list of potential foundations down to those that seem most appropriate to pursue and most likely to fund your particular project.

To make this list even more definitive, contact program officers at the foundation and discuss your project idea. They will tell you whether it is worthwhile for you to submit a proposal to them or if your time would be better spent pursuing a different foundation.

Links:

Foundation Center
http://www.fdncenter.org

School Technology Funding Directory
http://www.eschoolnews.org/stfd