It began as a fundraising experiment.
Could I get five $10,000+ donations if I reached out - with no previous connections - to 500 US based ‘Jewish’ philanthropic foundations?
The funding was for a kiruv project for US Jewish students, based outside the USA, with US non profit status.
It had elements that could be of interest to potential non-frum funders who support Jewish causes. Although a kiruv project at its core, it has a social justice slant and leadership focus.
This is what I did.
I started with a broad search for potential foundations, using a subscription to www.foundationcenter.org
The search criteria I used was foundations that give to 'Jewish Causes'.
There are more than a thousand that fit this search criteria - with a combined annual giving of hundreds of millions of dollars!
I then reached out to them one by one. What I found was that foundations fit into three types. Each with their own nuance.
- Wealthy Guy with Foundation
- Man with a Mission
- Someone Else's Money
1. Wealthy Guy with Foundation
The first type of foundation, I call the ‘Wealthy Guy with Foundation’. It's no different to any other large donor.
Here though, the donor uses the tax or financial planning advantages of a foundation to give his donations.
This type of foundation mostly needs no formal application. You reach out to them in the same way you would any new big potential donor.
The opportunity here is you get to see the donor's giving habits which is helpful to guide you in your solicitations.
2. Man with Mission
The second type of foundation, I call the ‘Man with Mission’ foundation. It’s a way for a funder to channel funds to fulfil their personal mission or vision they have for the world.
The opportunity here - if you fit their giving criteria and if they’re on the lookout for projects that help them achieve their mission - is even a cold call could be a great first step to receiving funding.
3. Someone Else's Money
The third group, I call the ‘Someone Else's Money’ foundation.
Here the trustees - who make the giving decisions - are not the original funder of the foundation. In many cases, the funder has died.
These appointed trustees now have responsibility to give away the funds.
The opportunity is that the trustees are often able to give away funds according to their individual or shared giving preferences.
Key Take Homes Lessons
The greatest opportunity I found from this experiment, alongside my experiences guiding mosdos Torah, is from foundations who restrict their funding to causes in their own city or state.
An added advantage of these locally funded foundations is the chance to find a connection to the foundation’s main donor or trustee from within your present supporter base.
But even without a connection, it’s worth reaching out to foundations that fund projects in your city or state - even when your project or organization only somewhat fits foundations giving criteria.
Mosdos Torah I've worked with have scored big in this way.
The foundation opportunity needs to be looked at as a long term investment of your efforts, where you plan to receive the donations from your efforts further down the line.
You may be wondering how successful my ‘foundation experiment’ was, even without the benefit of a locally based organization or any connection to any of the foundations I reached out to?
B'Hatzlacha raba raba in all your efforts,