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BlogBuilding Relationships with Foundations

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Building a relationship with a foundation

Building Relationships with Foundations

Last year, Giving USA reported an increase in individuals making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations through a family foundation or donor-advised fund established through a local community foundation or other entity. This shift in giving from individuals may require a different approach to cultivating, soliciting and stewarding gifts to support your organization.

Seek The Right Foundation Homepage

Homepage of

The first approach to consider is discovering which foundations align with supporting your organization’s cause. Many foundations can be found by using online tools or directories such as Candid, a resource made by combining Foundation Center and GuideStar websites. 

To determine which foundations would consider supporting your organization, you can search using criteria such as funding interests, geographic location and demographic focus. As your search list populates, take note of the foundations listed and examine if the funders’ interests align with your organization’s mission and vision. Some foundations listed include contact information for you to connect with the funder. This provides an opportunity for you to make an introduction and educate them about your organization’s mission and needs. During the introductory conversation, you may also learn about how the foundation wants to continue to learn about your organization and its funding process.

Other foundations may also have a website that details their funding process and provides information about their lead contact. Few foundations have their own website, so you will most likely need to designate time to contact and visit with each potential foundation based on their interest in supporting your organization.

Community foundations can also be a resource to connect with local donors, particularly if they have a donor-advised fund established at the community foundation. Officers at community foundations can often guide organizations on how to connect with funders of donor-advised assets and the types of projects they will support.

Build Trust With A Foundation

Cause IQ Private Foundations Stats

Stats for private foundations from

The type of foundation often determines how they distribute charitable gifts. Cause IQ shares there are 145,150 private foundations in the United States. Private foundations are often established by individuals, families and corporations and distribute funds through grants or an application process.

Foundations can be approached by hundreds of nonprofits. Build trust with the foundation by responding promptly to questions or requests. Be prepared to present your impact to the community and distinguish your programs and services from other organizations.

Like other types of funders, foundations will want to know how they may benefit by supporting your organization. Seek ways to collaborate with the foundations. For corporate foundations, is it providing on-site services for their employees or suggesting volunteer opportunities within your organization to build workplace culture? Family foundations may seek ways to further engage in your organization by taking a tour of your facility or program to experience first-hand the impact of your services on your constituents.

Continued communication and stewardship with a foundation are key to maintaining a relationship in the future. As with individual donors, include the foundation on your mail and electronic distribution lists to receive annual reports, newsletters and event invitations. Also, engage with them on social media and publicly thank them for their support. You should also consider asking the foundation to include their philanthropic support of your organization in their external communications.

Looking for additional tips to communicate and build relationships with foundations? Visit AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising at or call 319.268.9151.

Written by:

Melissa provides fundraising counsel for AMPERAGE’s nonprofit clients, leading feasibility studies and providing solutions that drive successful fundraising campaign results. A Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), she uses her experience and extensive skill set to continually advance her fundraising practices and develop campaign-specific strategies, materials and training to help clients reach their campaign goals and advance their mission. Melissa has vast experience working in the nonprofit sector, having served in development and leadership roles with Sisters of Mercy and the Alzheimer’s Association. In addition, she has served as a volunteer and board member with local nonprofits, such as the Catherine McAuley Center. Faith-based organizations and causes are of particular interest to Melissa. Melissa moves the needle by always looking for new opportunities and ways to improve professionally. She is currently president of the Eastern Iowa Planned Giving Council and a past president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Eastern Iowa Chapter. Melissa holds a Master of Strategic Leadership degree from Mount Mercy University. This busy professional, wife and mother enjoys sports and live music in her free time. A fan of Cubs baseball and Iowa Hawkeye football, Melissa and family enjoy football tailgating, where she’s known for her breakfast burritos. She enjoys the local band scene but says a Foo Fighters concert is her all-time favorite.