• Hildie Lipson

    Thanks for this great and timely article! Using one tip today that Mr. Cohen reminded me about.

  • Elizabeth Castillo

    Rick, thank you for this great article about a dynamic that frustrates so many of us. Your suggestions are clear and practical. Your inclusion of multiple perspectives was also helpful, especially the 2009 Foundation Center survey results of funder concerns. I’ll be sharing this article with my fundraising students and funders in our community as a case study of how organizational policy decisions have larger and often unintended impacts.

  • Anne Eigeman

    Thanks, Rick for this very useful piece!

  • Ken Ingraham

    Rick: Your article really resonated with me, and should be a clarion call to action! As an African American development professional, I’ve been concerned and dismayed for years by this trend . I was appalled to learn that 60% of foundations now practice what I see as a myopic, elitist and inequitable policy. It is also a policy that will exacerbate disparities in grantmaking to communities of color by the nation’s philanthropic foundations. There have been many recent studies that confirm this alarming trend as well. According to Foundation Center data, grantmaking for minorities declined as a proportion of large foundation grants between 1998 and 2005. A 2006 report by California’s Greenlining Institute found that of 13,566 grants made by national and California foundations, only 3.6% went to minority-led organizations. And a 2007 study by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy found that grantmaking to minority-led nonprofits was “ steadily declining as a proportion of total foundation grantmaking.” While I’m not aware of more recent studies on the issue, it’s clear to me that this restrictive policy of foundations not accepting unsolicited proposals can only make for significantly increased disparities in funding to minority communities.

    Rick’s article bemoaned the lack of push back against these policies by the nonprofit sector, perhaps out of fear of not biting the proverbial hand that feeds it. This concerns me as well, as I’ve been proactively searching for organized advocacy against this trend, and would love to be connected to such an effort – if it exists. I don’t believe nonprofits should suffer in silence and simply accept what has become the status quo. Minority-led nonprofits should be particularly engaged in such advocacy.

  • Twila Nesky

    Thank you for this very helpful article. I haven’t searched foundation funding in a long time because it’s so hard to find a fit for any of my colleagues (Graduate School of Education). Last several years I’ve focused all my efforts on Federal grants. I had no idea so many philanthropic foundations now have a closed door policy. I don’t think they should be allowed to call themselves philanthropic, or reap the benefits/incentives of being philanthropic, if they only give to their friends; which is how it turns out. How can that be considered public? Anyway, I love some of the suggestions, I think they are elegant and intelligent, and just a bit sneaky, which makes me want to try approaching foundations again. So well written. Thank you!


    Good idea, but am in Africa- Kenya how can my organization access such an opportunity

  • Kay

    Great information. Thank you.

  • Janet

    Thank you very much for all the information. It lifts my spirits!

  • Larisa

    Who is to say that accepting unsolicited proposals means they will fund any of them? In the case of many small foundations it simply makes sense to restrict to the causes that you are already invested in rather than take the considerable time to wade through an application process. I don’t really consider it alarming; more the reality of the business. It’s their money. As long as they are giving to legitimate non-profit organizations I don’t see this as anything sinister. But it does mean we have to do more work to get in front of foundations so they know who we are and what our organizations are doing. And it works; I have occasionally been asked by a “pre-selected only” foundation to submit a proposal.

  • Sharon Charters

    I think it is important to note that while this article may be accurate in terms of private family foundations, it does not reflect the way that community foundations work – they are very different types of foundations. I particularlyy would disagree with the advise of trying to ingratiate yourself/organization by who you might know on the board. My experience of 16 years as a grants manager is that more likely than not that will backfire and all you will do is damage your relationships with foundation staff.

    • JaneNYC

      Sharon, i get your point. However, a foundation which makes itself impervious to new relationships is not likely to have much of a relationship to damage.

      I do not believe it should be necessary for fundraising professionals to chase after foundation staff at “conferences”, like a non-profit Willy Loman. A thoughtful and frank conversation between two Board-level peers can be a sensible and dignified approach. The Foundation can always say “no thanks” and frequently does.