Foundation Grants

Working with a foundation is much friendlier than working through government grants. Getting started with a foundation can be as uncomplicated as sending them a letter. If foundation officials are interested in your idea, they contact you for details of the project.

Foundations are usually founded to promote a specific set of ideas or to serve a certain population group. Your needs must match the foundation's mission. Foundations seek innovative ideas that are focused on their mission.

It surprises people that foundations will react favorably to collaborative projects that use multiple funding sources. Starting a smaller project with local support prior to taking the project to a larger foundation is a great strategy.

Below is some important information to remember about foundations.

  • Most foundations give money in their local community. A financially successful business generally wants to give back to the local community.
  • There are national foundations that support projects throughout the United States and internationally. National foundations include the Food Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Check geographic funding areas to see if your area and project qualify.
  • Most foundations use a letter of inquiry as the first point of contact.

Searching for Grants

There are two general types of foundation grants:

  1. Giving grants are the most common type of foundation grants. They are funded by communities, corporations and families. Over 30,000 grants are given each year by large foundations, as well assmaller local family and business-related foundations.
  2. Service Grants are also funded by community, corporate, and family sponsors, but they provide a service. An example of a service foundation is the Johnson Foundation of Racine, Wisconsin that operates the Wingspread Conference Center.

The Foundation Center, founded in 1956, is the nation's leading authority on philanthropy and is dedicated to serving grantseekers, grantmakers, researchers, policymakers, the media, and the general public. The Foundation Center is the best source of grant information. It has two main offices in New York and Washington DC, with over 200 cooperating grant resource centers. The regional cooperative resource centers in Wisconsin are Marquette University, UW-Madison (Memorial Library-2nd Floor), and UW-Stevens Point.

These regional Centers offer a full range of print and computer resources for grant searching and are free to the general public for on-site use. Marquette University has created an online database for searching for Wisconsin Foundations. This is a good resource for faculty and staff seeking smaller grants. This is a subscription service, but is free to UW Colleges faculty and staff. Contact  or your local campus librarian for the access codes.

The Foundation Center itself offers many resources and links including print and on-line search guides — "bibles" of foundation grant searching. Access to the database requires a subscription. UW Colleges has a subscription that provides free use by UW Colleges Faculty and Staff. Contact Joy Foy to obtain the access codes.