As I wrote a few issues ago, it takes money to work as an artist or run a nonprofit, and creative financing is a de rigueur skill in a state like Montana. And so most of us, and the organizations we are involved with, have at some point applied for funding by writing grant applications to funding organizations, be they government entities or public and private philanthropic foundations.
Grant writing is a skill itself; you must be able to write concisely about your own work or the mission and goals of your organization, provide clear and accurate financials, navigate online forms, and much more. But one must also be able to locate potential funders and find their deadlines, program details and priorities. This is where the world of technology comes in with the Foundation Center and its online services.
The width and breadth of the Foundation Center and its available resources may surprise you as an artist or organization. The center is a non-profit 501(c)(3) dedicated to being the most comprehensive source of information about philanthropy worldwide. It was established almost 60 years ago and is funded by nearly 550 other foundations.
The center has a service called the Foundation Directory, which provides databases of thousands of foundations and grant makers, the grants they have given, tax documents, lists of board members and trustees, and many philanthropy resources in general. If you’re applying for funding in any respect, you need to know about these resources. Even if you’re simply doing research on the nonprofit sector – like finding out who funded what and when – the Foundation Center is the only place to go for such information.
For instance, you can search for all the grants that were made to organizations in Montana; all the foundations in New York City that make grants to artists in Montana; all the past grants that went to, say, organizations in Missoula over the last 10 years; all the foundations a particular trustee or company is involved with, and more.
In Montana, there are different ways to do your own searches of grants and grant makers:
• You can do your own free (but limited search) on the web at the Foundation Directory Online at Foundation Directory Online
• You can pay for your own full access at that same website
• Or you can go to one of five libraries around the state and use the Foundation Directory Online for free
The Foundation Directory Online is available at the Bozeman Public Library, the Flathead County Library in Kalispell, Montana State University-Billings Library, Montana Tech Library in Butte and the Mansfield Library at The University of Montana in Missoula.
The online directory can only be used at those locations; the license for the Foundation Center restricts access to in-house use at each library – there is no remote online access.
Next issue: Part 2 – Using the Foundation Directory