Most foundations are small and are run with little or no paid staff. They are often created by philanthropic individuals or families who have little experience in formalized philanthropy. Often, this lack of experience leads to a disorganized approach when the foundation begins to accept funding requests from charities. A helpful way to have an organized and more strategic approach is to issue a formal Request For Proposals (RFP) that applicants then respond to by providing specific and detailed information. In this way the foundation is more likely to receive the same information from each charity and can evaluate these applicants fairly. The template below can be helpful in understanding what to include in the RFP and how the RFP can be structured for maximum efficiency.
Foundation RFP Template
Background information about the foundation and the foundation's mission
The name of the foundation, founder, address and contact information, mission, and year founded, etc.
Goals of the foundation's funding program
What are the goals of this particular grant program? Is this particular RFP focused on specific types of projects or is it a more open application process? Is there a specific problem or concern that the foundation is addressing? Are grantees expected to participate in a foundation sponsored assessment or evaluation?
Organizations that are eligible to apply
What types of organizations are eligible to apply? Are there types of organization NOT permitted to apply? re certain types of organizations given preference in funding? Also indicate how competitive this particular RFP will be. This may be accomplished by stating the number of awards anticipated (up to 20 awards of up to $20,000 each) or it could be based on the number of organizations that might apply (we are expecting approximately 50 applications and anticipate making 25 awards).
Approximate grant size
It is helpful to give an approximate grant size for applicants to understand how much funding they are permitted to request. This could be stated as a funding range ($500 - $50,000), a maximum award (grant awards up to $50,000), or as a specific dollar amount (grant awards of $20,000 each). Is there a limitation on the amount of funding that can be requested based on the budget of the organization applying or based on the budget of the project proposed? Also state what happens with applications that request funding outside of the limitations. For example: grant applications not adhering to these limits will be considered nonresponsive and will not be reviewed.
Restrictions on the type of items to be funded
Are there specific types of activities or expenditures that will not be considered for funding? For example: no building projects, no administrative expenses, no staff salaries, no land acquisition, etc. Are grants awarded for only one-year, for multi-year projects, etc.? Is this a one-time grant or can applicants request funding annually?
What criteria will the foundation use to select the organizations to be provided funding? Will priority be given to any applicants (e.g. "priority will be given to applicants from southeast Michigan" OR "priority will be given to applicants from churches of other Christian ministries"). Will applicants receive a confirmation of the proposal being received? Will funding declinations be sent to applicants?
Will there be a pre-application workshop offered? Is the pre-application workshop or other training or meeting required? What is the application deadline?When will grants be reviewed? When will applicants receive funding notification? Are grantees required to attend a new grantee orientation or training?
Proposal format requirements
It is very helpful in evaluating applications when specific instructions are given on how to format the proposal and specific instructions on how to submit the proposal. Some grant makers will have rather informal guidelines (submit a 5 page proposal). Most grant makers will provide more details instructions such as the maximum number of pages, what section must be included in the proposal, single or double spacing, type of font, and font size. Instructions should include the number of copies of the proposal the applicant must submit. Usually one copy for each reviewer plus one additional proposal. How will applications be accepted? Is the application to be submitted by email, through an online application, by fax, or through regular mail? Also list the address where applications should be sent and other pertinent contact information.
Are there specific post-award requirements? What are the reporting requirements (i.e. quarterly reports, monthly reports, or a final report)? How are funds paid out to grantees (i.e. reimbursed for expenditures, full payment upon notification, 50% at the start of the project and 50% in 6-months, etc.)?
Commonly asked questions
It is helpful to provide the foundation's contact information for an applicant to utilize for additional information. Often a list of commonly asked questions is provided within the RFP or grant announcement.
The outline above may be more complex than is needed for your particular foundation. This could be easily simplified while still giving your foundation consistent information so that all applicants are judged on a level playing field.
Jeffrey J. Rodman is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and a Certified Grants Specialist (CGS). He is an experienced grantwriter, fundraiser, and nonprofit executive, who operates Here-4-You Consulting and Best Philanthropy Services. Jeffrey received his BS and his M.Ed. from George Mason University.
Here-4-You Christian Grant Consulting
Dr. Jeffrey J. Rodman, CFRE, CGS
President & CEO
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