Going Corporate

Corporations can be a great source for grant funding.

When your school or district needs additional funding, do you look to the private sector for assistance? Numerous corporations offer support to the community through charitable foundations. Some of these foundations focus on national initiatives, but many earmark their resources for regional, state, and local programs.

The recent economy has reduced the amount of available money, but education is often a high funding priority and grants are being awarded to well-conceived programs. Here's how to learn more about opportunities offered through foundations.

Explore the possibilities. Begin by reviewing listings for local, regional, and state foundations in free online foundation directories such as the Northern California Community Foundation or Fundsnet Services Online. Once you have a sense of what foundations can offer, make a list of large businesses and corporations in your area. Visit their Web sites to learn about their policies and priorities for charitable giving, usually found through links called "Community" or "Corporate." Depending upon the size of the foundation, its decision makers will be looking for different things. Smaller, local foundations will be less concerned about large-scale replication of funded projects, but this is likely to be a major focus for larger foundations. Make a list of the best candidates.

Prepare your pitch. Foundations generally receive more requests than they can fund, but don't be discouraged. Foundations target creative ideas built on sound strategies. Prepare what Susan Patrick, president and CEO of the North American Council for Online Learning, calls an "elevator talk." Be ready to make your points about your idea in the time it takes to ride an elevator from the first floor to the top floor of a high-rise building. Be sure to include program evaluation as a talking point.

Contact the foundation before submitting anything. Making personal contact increases your chance of being invited to submit a proposal. Ask the foundations about what kinds of projects they’re interested in to ensure that your project meets their funding priorities. Ask about guidelines for letters of inquiry and deadlines.

Susan Brooks-Young is an educational consultant and writer.