You have a great program. You are changing lives. You need the finances to keep the doors open. Sometimes the task can seem overwhelming. Like eating the big elephant, just take one bite at a time. Google and Yahoo are great search engines to get you started. Type is something like: Foundation grants for job training, grants for after school programs, or State of _____ Community Foundations.
Visit the websites that come up. Now get into “scavenger hunt” mode. Jot down the name, phone number, contact person and website of any foundations that look promising for your project. As you explore their mission and vision statements, look for examples of programs they have previously funded. Sometimes it’s a good idea to visit the websites of the grantees to get a clearer picture of the types of programs that get funding. What do you offer that is similar? What are different or unique aspects of your own project? This will help you focus on the type and quality of program services that foundation will support.
In addition to those searches, there are some great websites that already have directories set up by category of funding or by state. Some examples of this type of website are: Fundsnet Services and the Foundation Center’s. On these sites, you can make a search according to the type of program services you plan to offer. Sometimes you may find a foundation that supports only one aspect of your program. For example, your after school program offers classes on theater, music, homework help and career exploration. The potential foundation supports programs that focus on the arts: dance, theatre and music. You could approach this foundation for that part of your program. This calls for creativity and looking for multiple funders to cover the bulk of your program costs.
Once you have done the initial research and found some possible funders for your project, you should research the organizations they have already funded to see if you fit into their mission. Another thing to explore are various eligibility criteria. Do they accept solicitations? Do you have to be recommended by an employee or board member? What is their application deadline? If they only fund programs in Georgia and you are in Philadelphia, it would be a waste of time to apply to that foundation.
If you can check “yes” to those eligibility requirements, the next step would be to send an email or make a phone call to make a “connection” with the possible funder. Usually, you should try to get to a person on the board, a grants manager or a program director. You can ask specific questions about your project before you complete the application. These people are valuable resources to get you on the right track.
Now, you are on your way. Good luck, and happy hunting!