Looking for Grantmakers? Start Close to Home

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When looking for the grantmakers most likely to support your organization’s work, start close to home. The idea of a fat grant from a large national-level foundation is alluring, but unless your organization is doing work of national importance, these large funders probably aren’t a good bet.

 

When making grant awards, geographic proximity is often a determining factor for funders. Many private foundations limit their grants to geographic areas where they have relationships or history. Many corporate foundations limit their grants to areas in which the parent company does business or has offices. Communities Foundations and other public charities such as United Way make grants in well-defined geographic areas.

 

The driver for this locally-focused grantmaking is simple. Funders are interested in improving the quality of life in the communities and regions where they live and work, where they grew up, where their employees live—places to which they feel connected and care about.

 

Close-to-home funders are also most likely to know about your organization and appreciate its work. Their trustees or staff members may have benefitted from your services or may know people who have. You’re also likely to have board or staff members in your organization who have relationships with local funders and who can advocate on your behalf.

 

With national-level funders your grant proposals will encounter competition from other nonprofits from throughout the country and you’re much less likely to have helpful connections to promote your cause. These funders are often interested in supporting work that will have national-level impact in terms of results or innovation. You’ve got to be realistic about what your organization can bring to that table.

 

Your organization’s fit with a grantmaker depends on a multitude of factors. Before submitting grant proposals, do your research and take off the rose-colored glasses when assessing how competitive you can be. If you find your organization’s mission and work do align perfectly with a national-level grantmaker, reach out and go for the gold. But engage deeply and consistently with grantmakers in your immediate area. By building trusting relationships with these close-to-home funders, you can develop long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships.

 
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