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Knowledge Base

Why do some foundations say, "Applications not accepted"? How can I approach them?

Common reasons that a foundation will not accept applications include:

  • it does not have the capacity to receive and review a lot of proposals
  • it has an internal process for identifying and selecting its grantees each year
  • it has been set up to benefit specific organizations

Our staff identifies a grantmaker's application acceptance policy from its Form 990, website or other communication materials, or by direct inquiry. If a funder does not accept applications, its Foundation Directory Online (FDO) profile will state "Applications not accepted" in the Limitations field.

FDO is our searchable database of grantmakers and their grants. To search from your own computer, subscribe online. To search it for free, visit our locations nationwide.

How can I approach these foundations?

However, you may still want to approach foundations that don't accept applications, especially if their giving interests closely match your organization's needs.

Decide if the foundation really is a good prospect. To do this, look at the foundation's grants from the last several years to see what kinds of grants it has made. If the foundation makes grants to the same organizations year after year, you might consider other prospects. However, if it varies its grantmaking from year to year, has an interest in your field, and makes grants in your geographic area, it could be a prospect.

FDO's grantmaker profiles will show a foundation's recent grants data and summarize its subject, location, and grant size trends for the last five years. Alternatively, you can view its 990s in FDO or at 990 Finder, our free tool to find these forms.

Use your networks. Give a list of the foundation's board members and staff (along with their affiliations) to your board members, key donors, and influential supporters. Ask them if they know anyone on the list and if they are willing to introduce your organization to them. This is the most effective way of getting the foundation's attention.

FDO now links directly to LinkedIn profiles for board members and key staff. Click on the LinkedIn icon in an FDO profile to quickly find mutual connections between you and key decision makers of grantmaking organizations. More about using LinkedIn in FDO.

Send a letter of introduction. If you don't have connections, you could send a letter that introduces your organization and explains how it connects with the foundation's giving interests. Important: The letter should not include a funding request. However, it should ask how the foundation selects its grantees, and if you can meet with them or provide more information about your organization.

To learn more about building relationships with grantmakers, see also:

How can I exclude them from my FDO search?

In FDO's new view:  From your main search results page, click on View All Grantmakers. On the next page, scroll up to the blue GRANTMAKERS FILTERS box, and check the "Exclude grantmakers not accepting applications" box, then click on Search button:

screenshot of "exclude applications not accepted" in FDO's new view

In FDO's classic view:  In Search Grantmakers screen, click on "More search options", and check the box marked "Exclude grantmakers not accepting applications", located above the Search button.

Screenshot of FDO field to exclude funders who don't accept applications

Alternatively, on the left side of the search results page is a "Filter Your Results" box. At the end of this box, you can filter your results to include only funders who accept applications or not.

Screenshot of FDO's "Filter Your Results" options for applications accepted or not

Self-paced eLearning on Approaching Foundations

How to Cultivate Meaningful Relationships with Funders

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See also our related Knowledge Base articles:

- How do I approach a foundation and build a successful grantee-funder relationship?
- How do I find foundation grants for my nonprofit?
- Proposal writing articles

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