Sunday, October 28, 2007


The Foundation Center is located in New York, NY. They also have five regional offices (ours is in Cleveland). Their mission is “to strengthen the nonprofit sector by advancing knowledge about U.S. philanthropy. They connect grantmakers and grantseekers, but do not give grants themselves. I attended their annual conference in New York. They also have training events at the regional centers, at library conferences, and will sometimes train staff on-site.

If a patron is just starting out in the area of grants and foundations, the Foundation Center’s web site is the place to start. It contains resource guides for different type of grantseekers, short online courses (some free with registration), grant application forms, grants and grantmakers statistics,foundation-sponsored reports, their e-newsletter Philanthropy News Digest, and their catalog of materials at their libraries, the Catalog of Nonprofit Literature. Some searching of foundations can be done, but the online database has more information. The frequently asked questions section has useful information such as the difference between a grant and a business loan. If that doesn’t work, a question can be submitted by email.

Foundation Directory Online is four databases in one: grants, grantmakers, companies and 990s. When you enter a database, it is best to click on the search field heading to bring up the index on the left-hand side and browse through those. Browse by alphabet, then click on the most relevant one to have it appear in the search box. Clicking on more than one type of support or field of interest will create an “or” search, not an “and”. You can add a term to the keyword box to create an “and” search. One thing to note: “Grantmaker State” may not be the same as “Geographic Focus”. They may be located in one state and give to another. 990s are forms that nonprofits are required to file by the IRS. They list who they gave to and how much. If you are not having success with your search in the other databases, try a full-text search of 990s. What the foundation’s profile says they support may not match what their past giving says they support, or there may not be a complete profile in the database yet. Search results can be printed, emailed, or saved as an Excel file.

Foundation grants to individuals are a very small percentage of grants (5,000-6,000 out of 90,000). Most of these go to artists or higher education. Most foundations prefer to give to nonprofits rather than individuals because of the paperwork involved. In a few cases, nonprofits will make a legal contract with an individual to help them receive grants. This is called “fiscal sponsorship”, and the nonprofit receives a fee of 5%-10%. In the future, the Foundation Center will allow Foundation Grants to individuals Online to be available at all branches of a cooperating collection. For more on inflated claims of free money to individuals, see this web site .

CCNet is a special web site for institutions with cooperating collections. It contains scripts and presentations for classes, sample brochures and logos, a link you can put on your web page, online ordering of materials at a 40% discount, an events calendar, archives of past training materials, registration for free courses, and an online message board to which one can submit questions. If you are doing training at a remote location, you can ask for a temporary (one week) password for the databases.

The Foundation Center itself has an impressive library which uses its own cataloging system. Most of the books are familiar, but what I noticed was the enormous collection of periodicals. The Foundation Center will fax articles and chapters of books, but they do not lend out whole books or videos. Anyone can go to the centers to do research, but staff will only do research for fee-paying members, and then only to a certain extent. One of the librarians has a blog describing new titles added to the library.

Handouts, notes and other supplementary material are available in the FYI basket in the fourth floor workroom.

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