How to Write a Grant: Philanthropy is the Gateway to Power

If you're a devotee of the TV Show Mad Men, you may recall an episode where the senior partner of an advertising agency says, "Philanthropy is the Gateway to Power." The first time I heard it, it knocked my socks off. I love the show because of its devotion to detail of the look and feel of the 60's in America. But this quote alone is fodder for an article in this blog.

Philanthropy is the realm of the rich and the powerful. For decades, captains of industry have established philanthropic arms of their companies to keep control of how their vast fortunes are distributed (and kept). A good grant writer will follow some basic steps and rules when approaching the captains of industry they will meet along the way.

1.       Know who you're talking to when you call the funding agency. This sounds obvious but it's very important to organize your telephone contacts with foundations and corporations. Work with one person in each funding entity. Keep it simple and streamlined and don't abuse the phone access you've established. You might consider using your one initial phone call to set up an email exchange. It's great to establish the phone contact and have a voice to hold in your memory for each group when a personal visit isn't an option. You'll primarily want to set up an email thread for this single contact. I like to keep one connected thread, that way everything I've said is right there for reference.

2.       Learn the vision of the funder. Every philanthropist has a passion. Their hard-earned grant allocations must align with the vision they've developed for their largesse. Foundation websites are a wellspring of information regarding the goals and objectives of the group. Concentrate on past awards. Who has received funding and what was each grant's purpose? When you've found a grant award that aligns with what you want to do, try to establish contact with the original author of that grant. The lessons they've learned along the way may save you a great deal of time.

3.       Never try to fit a square peg into a round hole. If you've found a foundation whose vision is close to yours, don't try to make your narrative fit theirs. It must fit theirs in a very organic and natural way. They will know if you're trying to turn yourself and your project into a pretzel to fit their goals and ideals. You are now in the business of establishing relationships. I've seen foundations and schools that make beautiful music together. It becomes a constant cycle of funding and fulfilling. You are making their dream come true; don't underestimate the value of the work you're doing. They want to be able to point to your school year after year to show the world what carefully applied private support can do.

4.       Make sure your budget is honest and true. This simple list of requests for your needs should be the section that took the longest length of time to develop. Work with vendors to find the lowest costs for items like computers and books. There are many fish in the sea, your funder will be happy that you took the time to find the best bang for their buck. Never insert things into your budget that are not specifically required for your project. Don't be swayed by your Principal who says the football helmets he wants with those "extra" dollars will never be noticed. What he's suggesting (and it happens all the time), is illegal and unethical. The people who review your application will spot this egregious error and never fund your school's dreams again.

Philanthropy is a huge business. Hundreds of private philanthropies together spend almost $4 billion annually on school projects nationwide. You are right to want to be in on this activity. If you follow some simple guidelines, you can develop projects that are the answer to some foundation's wish list. We have a Grants Database available just for you to help get you started .

Resources for learning more about philanthropy:

                Chronicle of Philanthropy

                From the Philanthropists' Point of View

                Types of Trusts and Foundations

                Working with Foundations When Times Are Tough

                Working with a Local Education Foundation             

Current Grant Opportunities

Education Grants from the Braitmayer Foundation- The foundation is interested in proposals utilizing innovative practices in kindergarten through grade 12 education throughout the United States. Of particular interest are curricular and school reform initiatives and professional development opportunities for teachers, particularly those that encourage people of high ability and diverse background to enter and remain in teaching.

States: All States

Average Amount: $1,000.00 - $35,000.00              

Address: 6470 Freetown Rd., Ste. 20087 Columbia, MD 21044-4016

Telephone: 410-480-2799


Website: Braitmayer Foundation

Eligibility: Public School, Private School

Program Areas: After-School, Arts, At-Risk/Character, Early Childhood, ESL/Bilingual/Foreign Language, General Education, Health/PE, Math, Professional Development, Reading, Science/Environmental, Social Studies

Deadline: 3/15/2016

Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools from the Whole Kids Foundation- To qualify for a Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools grant you must offer the salad bar as part of the reimbursable meal served in your district. The 6-foot, five-well salad bar package is for locations that serve at least 100 reimbursable meals daily.

States: All States


Website: Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools

Eligibility: Public School, Private School

Program Areas: Facilities/Maintenance, General Education, Health/PE

Deadline: Ongoing