Foundations and charities: It's a fine balance

publication date: Jul 28, 2014
author/source: Lisa MacDonald
In Canada, private and public foundations number over 10,000 and have a total asset base exceeding $34 million dollars. These foundations are established to give money away: by making grants annually to registered charities, providing services or undertaking projects relevant to their missions. Many charities, for their part, depend on grants from foundations to help meet new or increased needs.  In Leslie Weir's experience, this interdependent relationship is at its best, when each is respectful and appreciative of the other's role in pursuing the common good and enhancing some aspect of community life.

Finding the right fit

Weir advises to start by doing your research. The challenge is to identify those charities and foundations with overlapping objectives. Searchable online databases can facilitate identifying the best prospective foundations that may make a grant to a particular organization or program, that is, any that may be predisposed to your cause for some reason.

Free electronic resources, such as those offered by the Canada Revenue Agency or can provide links and information about granting priorities, scale of granting, geographic scope and granting priorities. Fee-based subscription services also offer useful software tools to support key word searches that source grants by location, recipient, type, field of interest, value and year.

Prioritize and assess

After reviewing your research and becoming familiar with those foundations closest to you, prioritize the foundations that seem to fit well with your organization's values and mission, also recognizing where your organization's priorities and services are congruent with the foundation's objectives.  Assess each foundation against some measure, such as "LIA":

  • Linkage - do any of your board members know members of the foundation's board?
  • Interest - Would your proposal address one of the foundation's funding interests?
  • Ability - What is the foundation's annual funding capacity, average grant, largest grant?

A natural tension exists between organizations seeking funding and their prospective funders. Finding a balance between shared and diverging interests offers a challenge - that for Weir, is best resolved through dialogue with a goal of reaching mutual agreement.

Leslie Weir coordinates the Legacy Circle program for The Winnipeg Foundation. You can read her full chapter on foundations, in Excellence in Fundraising in Canada, purchased here for only $95.

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