Tips and tricks for finding private funding for police

The private world of philanthropy is filled with resources for funding just about everything related to community, people, our world and its sustainability. Sorting through the more than 88,000 foundations in the United States, to find the right match for your project may seem daunting. The task of searching for a fit is not as hard as you might think. Developing a relationship with a private grantmaker can prove to be a rewarding and fulfilling adventure. Law enforcement organizations need to be creative in their approach in garnering this important funding resource.

According to the “Highlights of Foundation Giving Trends 2008” published by the Foundation Center, the largest U.S. private and community foundations increased their funding for all major subject areas in 2006. Overall, grant dollars rose 16.4% to $19.1 billion dollars in 2006. That funding breaks down into the following categories: 11% Public Affairs/Society benefits, 23% to Health, 23% to Education, and 14% to Human Services, Social Sciences 1%, Science and Technology 3%, Religion 2%, International Affairs 5% , Environment and Animals 6%, Arts and Culture 12%. A total of 71% of the $19.1 billion dollars were awarded to help people live better lives in related LEO categories. Law Enforcement and its partnering organizations are included in those totals. Partnering with related community organizations with similar target population, offers LEOs a way to access this large pool of private funding.

Completing a proper and full search for a private grant maker is your primary task in indentifying the right prospect for the purpose your law enforcement organization has in mind. Foundations may not be able to fulfill all of your organizational needs but can play a major role as a partner in helping your organization accomplish its goals. Never make the mistake of limiting your search for the “perfect” funder. But approach your search with the basic criteria which meet your needs and an open mind for selecting several candidates for consideration. Match your mission with the grantmaker’s mission. You must also consider what type of support you are seeking.

Foundation grantmakers typically fund nonprofits. For law enforcement entities, this is a good opportunity to develop traditional and non-traditional partnerships within your community. You might consider schools, drug demand reduction service providers, domestic abuse service providers, other justice system partners, private employers, etc. Within this type of partnership, law enforcement organizations can provide required support and obtain valuable and needed equipment, tools and other resources within the scope of the project. This partnership will “lend” you the nonprofit 501 (c) 3 status needed to obtain the funding desired. Grantmakers are looking for potential grantees that demonstrate a strong relationship with their community and for that reason encourage partnering.

The Foundation Center is the premier site for beginning your research on foundations. The Center has the largest collection of training materials, research resources, publications and the Foundation Center Directory. The Directory is the one-stop-shop for obtaining critical information about how to approach the foundation and for what purposes they provide grant funding. Anyone seeking foundation support needs to spend time at this website learning about foundations, how to approach them and how to find them. There are cooperating collections of the Foundation Directory found at libraries across all 50 states. The listing for these locations may be found at the website under ‘”Cooperating Collections”. The Directory provides the most complete profiles available of all 88,000 foundations. At the local libraries a computer is available for your free research. All potential foundation profiles may be saved to a thumb drive for your use at home.

Once you have selected some potential funders, you will then need to dig in deeper to determine which of these potential candidates is the best foundation for meeting your needs. Always do your HOMEWORK, RESEARCH and GROUNDWORK BEFORE you ever contact a potential grantmaker! It is best to send appropriate applications to the right grantmakers. Never try than to apply the catch-as-catch-can” approach by sending the same concept proposal to many potential grantmakers. Each private foundation has its own mission, vision, and priorities for funding. The latter can have rather tragic results as the foundation staff can usually see through this type of campaign. And they all know when you have not done your homework.

There are three basic research strategies that you can use to define and identify a funder. You can divide your search into subject matter, geographic approach and type of support. The Foundation Directory allows the grant seeker to search by any of these categories. The cooperating libraries will also have dozens of other directories and guides for finding funding available at their grant research center. You might want to try the following categories for your search: law enforcement, law enforcement equipment, substance abuse, domestic abuse, juvenile justice, gangs, etc. The Directory provides a list of all searchable topics.

In addition to the Foundation Directory profiles, you need to complete the research on a funder by looking for other sources of information to round out the prospective grantmaker’s profile. These resources are websites, annual reports, 990-PF tax returns (available at the IRS or the Foundation Center website; the foundation’s own guidelines and request for proposal document, newsletters, and press releases and grant lists. The Foundation Center website will provide information on how to obtain many of the documents you need to complete your research. Please keep in mind that less than 4000 foundations have community websites. The rest of the research is completed the ‘old fashioned way”: hard copy!

Once you have identified the right prospect, completed your research and understand how the funder wishes to be contacted the first time, you need to prepare a concept paper in the form of a letter of inquiry. This letter will contain a summary of your project, identification of the target population, partner, cost, goals, expected outcomes and the benefit of the funding partnership to the community. It is a “mini presentation” of the project you wish them to fund. The grantmaker will review this letter and then contact you to either invite you to apply or to turn you down. Yes, we all get turned down at some point! Just don’t let this stop you from pursuing other potential candidates.

Creative thinking is required to find money for LEOs within the private foundation world. Let’s brainstorm for a moment. For canines, search the corporate foundations who make dog food, for traffic tools and equipment search the corporate insurance foundations, for drug demand reduction search pharmaceutical corporate foundations and foundations with priority funding for youth, schools, drug demand reduction service providers, for law enforcement health and fitness search the corporate foundations who produce sports equipment, power bars, sneakers etc. Hopefully this is developing some additional ideas for you. Step out of your normal thinking and into the creative brainstorming process of imagining who might have money related to your needs.

The relationship which develops with the “right funder” brings many rewards to your organization and your community. There are many funders out there who would like to meet you and support the work you are doing.

For more resources, training and information please spend some well invested time with the Foundation Center website. And if you every have the opportunity to visit one of the Foundation Centers Offices or one of their cooperating collections, you will find a lot more information and world-class support from their staff.

Best wishes for successful funding!

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