Friday, July 25, 2008

Free Money From Foundations?

One of the most persistent free money myths is that foundations exist to give you billions of dollars. Yes, they exist, and yes they give millions. But mostly, not to you. Most foundations don’t give grants to individuals, because the IRS regulations make it tough. But it’s not impossible. The secret is to find out which ones provide these grants, and a little research can help.
If you live near a Foundation Center Cooperating Collection, you are a little luckier than the average bear. These are the over 300+ collections supported by the Foundation Center in New York City, and they are scattered everywhere in the U.S. and Mexico. Each collection has access to the online version of the directory Foundation Grants to Individuals and its print counterpart. The online version cannot be access for free, at home, however. You must go to the library. Home or office access is only for subscribers. But if you want home or office access, you can subscribe for a little less than $20 for a month, and search your brains out.
Like the Foundation Directory, the overall directory for foundation giving, a little background is in order before you begin research. Foundations tend to restrict their giving to particular geographic areas, for particular causes, and aim their gifts towards particular population groups. When you research, use this knowledge to hone in on foundations that want to help you.
For instance, click on “types of support” on the search page to find foundations that give certain types of support—scholarships to individuals, employee-related scholarships (that is, scholarships for employees or family members of employees of certain companies), doctoral support, grants for special needs, etc. The heading s will appear on the left hand side of the screen. Click on the headings that apply to you, and they will automatically be added to the search box. Add as many headings as may apply to you.
Geography is important. In the “geographic focus” box, put in the 2-letter abbreviation for your state and add “and national.” This will search for any grant makers focused on your state and nationally. You will get some clinkers—grantors that give in another part of the state, and not the one in which you live. Just grit your teeth, wade, through these entries that mean nothing to you, and understand that you are doing a comprehensive search.
Use the “fields of interest” (subject) field, too. Again, click on the words “fields of interest,” and the list of subject headings will appear on the left hand side of the screen. The numbers in parenthesis next to them are the number of foundations that have that subject heading. Click as many subjects as apply to you.
Other great features are school names and company names. Graduates of particular schools, or the employees or family members of employees, are eligible for grants from some foundations. If you fall into this category, click those field names, and see if the name of the school or company comes up. You might find a grant that you had missed. For more tips, use the search tutorial at the top of the search page.

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