So now you've researched the foundations operating in your area and narrowed your list down to four or five that seem like a good fit. Great! Now it's time to find out exactly what you need to do to get the ball rolling. Either by visiting the foundations' websites or by calling them directly, track down the following information:
- Grant guidelines
- The foundation's annual report
- Grant application packet (including grant calendar and deadlines)
- Foundation mailing address
- Name of a contact person
- List of previous grantees
The annual report and the list of previous grantees can provide valuable information on the foundation's range of giving. For instance, do they typically hand out $10,000 - $20,000, or are they looking for long-term projects in the $75,000 - $100,000 range? Make sure you're not asking for way too much or too little. Also, see if you can contact past grantees, and ask them for tips on preparing a successful application.
Some foundations go even further in providing detailed information on how to put together a winning proposal. They may even offer training sessions for potential applicants - take advantage of these! The more information you have, the better your proposal will be.
Before you write a single word for any of your applications, spend some time thinking about how your project fits in with the stated mission and guidelines of each foundation. Unfortunately, very few foundations target playgrounds specifically. Furthermore, many grantmakers are reluctant to fund one-time, "bricks-and-mortar" projects.
That doesn't mean your project is ineligible! It just means that you should focus on the sustainable aspects of your new playspace, and on how the community will benefit. For example, maybe you're providing a play facility for in-school and after-school programming. Perhaps you're promoting healthy exercise among young children, revitalizing a neighborhood park, or establishing a playground-based community group for young families. Don't stretch the "fit" too far, and never include programs that you don't genuinely intend to implement. But do reflect on the long-term community impact of your playspace...it's more than just swings and slides!
To begin, read through your chosen foundations' materials and highlight key words that remind you of your community or your project. Then brainstorm with your fundraising committee to build out from those key words and create descriptions of your playspace impact.
For some concrete examples of how playgrounds fit in with common grantmaking goals, read about selling your project. If your reflections are complete and think you're ready to move ahead, start gathering information and sending an inquiry letter.
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