Lesson #22 Evaluating a Funder’s List or Profile and Lesson #23 Evaluating a Funder’s Form 990 PF

Greetings from GrantLessons!

Hope all had a great weekend celebrating our heritage. Welcome rain has come to Reno! This week we continue with our review of our potential lest of funders. We are getting closer to finding resources for our philanthropic programs.

Lesson #22 – Evaluating a Funder’s List or Profile
Now we either have an Excel List with a list of funders in front of us or we have a GrantStation or a Foundation Directory Online profile and we must determine if this is a good match between the funder’s need to donate and the chapter’s philanthropic program need. Here are some tips on how to evaluate the GuideStar Excel list and the GrantStation and Foundation Directory Online profiles. We are attempting to find an opportunity to write an application.

GuideStar Excel List
Using the GuideStar Excel list one needs to sort it to ensure that the funders have funds and are currently receiving income. Simply delete any foundation names (generally corporations are not listed in GuideStar) that do not have assets and/or income. One goes back into GuideStar and pulls up the foundation’s Form 990 and continues to evaluate the Form 990.

GrantStation Profile
Using GrantStation, one of the first things we need to do is determine if the funder provides donations in the chapter’s geographic area. For instance, if you live in Nevada, GrantStation does not sort between Las Vegas and Reno. We need to determine if the funder gives to the entire state or only to Las Vegas. If the funder focuses only on Las Vegas, we close the profile and enter the name on an Excel spreadsheet so we know that we have reviewed this profile (our chapter is in Reno). If we cannot determine from looking at the GrantStation profile, we go to the Internet and check out the funder’s website to see where they make their donations. Next, we can go to GuideStar or Foundation Directory and pull up the funder’s Form 990 realizing that these are often over a year old. Using a keyword search using the city, state, and targeted population may identify funders. Remember the geographic focus is the most important variable since most foundations provide funding to a specific geographic region.

Foundation Directory Online Profile
Using Foundation Directory Online, the member finds that there are more variables to search on resulting in more data elements in the profile for examination. Foundation Directory Online allows a profile to be emailed to another committee member which can be helpful. Foundation Directory Online provides a summary of important elements on the profile. It also allows the researcher to search on a specific city or county. Access to the Form 990 is available.

Lesson #23 – Evaluating a Funder’s Form 990 PF
Form 990
Chapters complete Form 990 because they are public charities. Form 990 contains information about a nonprofit’s demographics, financials, programs, and board of directors.

Form 990PF
Funders complete Form 990PF because they are public foundations. Corporations do not complete a Form 990. Form 990PF contains similar information found in Form 990 about a foundation’s demographics, financials and board of directors. However, there are two extra sections to a Form 990 PF. Section XV provides specific information on whether the funder accepts unsolicited requests for grants. Funders who do accept unsolicited requests provide specific information on how to apply or where to go to find additional information, such as, the funder’s website. Section XV may direct you to see a specific statement within the funder’s Form 990.
Additionally Form 990 provides a list of grants that the funder has made over the last fiscal year including the amounts made. The list of grants is generally found at the end of the document. The list provides an idea on how much the funder is willing to fund proposals. The funder will have a philosophy of either giving a lot of small grants to many or several large grants to a few.
GuideStar allows the ability to search on Form 990s for free. GrantStation does not allow one to search on Form 990s. Foundation Directory Online allows one to search Form 990s with a paid subscription.

I scan the Form 990 to see how much money they gave away last year, how much they are worth, and the names of their Board of Directors (who knows I might know one of them). I focus on Section XV where the funder identifies if they accept applications and what the process is for making a request. If they accept paper applications, a name and mailing address will be present. If they give only to preselected charities, I stop the process of evaluation (this aspect will be discussed in a later lesson).
Lastly, I focus on who has received donations and the amount of the donations. I am looking to understand if there are any similarities between where the donations were made and the chapter’s programs. For instance, if I see that they have donated to a Boys and Girls Club, I consider that a similarity. Generally this information is in the last pages of the Form 990.
Generally, when I get to this point I have found a website associated with the funder, but not always where I can find additional information. At this point, I am looking for any reason to exclude this funder from further review. For instance, one time a funder wanted a policy to be in place if they were going to give money, another time I found that the funder only wanted to give to a 501 (c) (3) who had paid employees (that let us out since we are a 100% member volunteer organization). Another time, the funder only wanted to interact with charities that had a budget of $1 million dollars (well we are not quite there).

Now I read everything one more time since I know that on the initial review I am scanning and not really reading. I determine if this is a paper or online application. Lastly I determine if it is an open application period or whether there is a specific deadline to meet. Then I send the information to our Grants Chairman with a short email as to my findings and whether we need someone to write today or whether we need to list on what we call our Grants Standing Worksheet to evaluate at a later time. Her job is to determine who on the committee has time and energy to take on writing an application. It is very important that only one person makes this decision so there are not two people writing applications to the same funder at the same time!

Before I close up all the screens on my computer, I note the website url address and paste it into a Word sheet. I save the sheet and the Form 990 to a new folder in Dropbox. I am careful to use the full name of the potential funder for the folder file.

When you are starting out this process working with someone else will make the process faster and more interesting. Finding a potential funder is exhilarating!

Catch me when you can and I will catch up with you soon! Sandie



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