What Size Grant to Ask For From a Grant Making Foundation

After you spend hours upon hours researching thousands of foundations, you find some that are a good fit for your organization. But how do you know how much funding to request from this foundation?  https://www.foundationlist.org/

As you spend more time researching a foundation you will develop a better understanding of how much to ask for. When you are sending your first proposal to a foundation you do not want to ask for too much money, because foundations normally give larger awards to organizations they have built a relationship with over the years. You also don’t want to ask for too little money, as you may deprive your organization of potential funding.

Developing relationships is an important building block as is the case in the rest of the Fundraising field. You can call the contact person for the foundation and talk to them about your organization and if it is something that interests them. If the conversation goes well, you can also ask them how much they normally give to an organization who is applying for the first time. They will normally be up-front and provide you with either an amount or a range.

Of course some foundations will not have any phone numbers listed for contact information, and you will need to determine how much you are going to request from the foundation by making an informed decision. A very good way to reach an informed decision is to analyze the available data.

Foundation Directory Online

A good place to obtain information on foundations is on the Foundation Directory Online website – which is run by the Foundation Center. The Foundation Directory Online is a subscription based program with the Professional version priced at $1,295 per year. This provides a good review on the financial data for the foundation. They will list how many grants and much money was awarded for that particular year, and they will provide the highest and lowest amount awarded. Sometimes they will give information on the average award size. For an example we will use the following financial section posted for an organization in the Foundation Directory.

Financial data: (yr. ended 12/31/03): Assets, $115,944,286 (M); expenditures, $6,831,492; total giving, $5,611,933; qualifying distributions, $6,063,290; giving activities include $5,611,933 for 172 grants (high: $500,000; low: $5,000; average: $10,000-$100,000).

The information listed above that we took from the Foundation Directory is a valuable tool to aid us with our process of determining of how much to ask for. Through this information we can decipher how much money they awarded in 2003 ($5.6M) through 172 grants. The lowest grant was $5,000 and the highest was $500,000, with the average range between $10,000 and $100,000.

Analyze the Data

Based on the earlier information on foundations providing larger sized grants to organizations they have built relationships with, we know it is not advisable to ask for $500,000 from this particular foundation. Normally it is not advisable to request an amount in the higher end of their average range. We could request a grant between $5,000 (their lowest grant) and $50,000. I picked $50,000 because it is just below the middle of their average range of $10,000 and $100,000, which should have a pretty good chance of being funded. Also, be mindful of your budget, as you do not want to ask for more than 25% of your budget. For an even more informed decision you can include an additional step.


This additional step is to check the foundations information on Guidestar. Guidestar also requires a subscription to view their content. Guidestar contains the IRS Form 990, which is an annual reporting return that federally tax-exempt organizations must file with the IRS. It provides information on the filing organization’s mission, programs, and finances. It also includes who they awarded grants to and the amount of each award. Look through the Form 990 from the latest year listed and create a tally sheet broken down into financial ranges (i.e. $5,000-$19,999; $20,000- $29,999; etc.) Then tally how many grants were awarded in each range. By doing this you will discover that they awarded more grants in one range of proposals, between $30,000 and $39,999 than

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