The answer is complicated because there are actually many ways that a foundation will decide to give a grant. The ones listed below are general in nature and not all criteria will apply to every foundation. These are common, but the list is not exhaustive.
1. Field(s) of interest determined by the foundation’s board and defined in their bylaws.
2. Types of funding – Money isn’t money to a foundation. If you want funding for a building, that’s a capital expense and not all foundations are willing to spend money on. Many foundations shy away from funding operating expenses although that restriction has eased a little in some cases with the state of the economy.
3. Relationships – Often a foundation will fund organizations and individuals they know and trust to do the most effective job with a grant. Newcomers must establish these relationships over time and by proving they can do the job. Many foundations give a small grant in year one and assess performance, if an agency does well, sometimes subsequent requests can be larger.
4. Geography – Some foundations specify locations to give to excluding everyone else. Some give nationally while others give internationally. It is important to look at previous grants funded to know where they will fund.
5. Types of Organizations – Foundations usually only give to other non-profit organizations so individuals have a harder time finding assistance from foundations directly.
Of course there are many factors that help determine the allocation of grant money. These five are generally applicable to most foundations. It is imperative that grant seekers pay close attention to these five – at a minimum – in screening potential funding sources when seeking grants.
For more information about grant writing and non-profits see:
Grant Goddess Resources