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New foundation report on corporate foundations

In law enforcement we often think that state and federal funding are our only choices for getting the tools and technology we need.  It has been a long time since I focused on the private side of funding. The Foundation Center has published a new 2012 report about corporate foundations which should be of interest to those of you in law enforcement. 

The Foundation Center reports that giving by the nation’s approximately 2,700 grantmaking corporate foundations grew to an estimated $5.2 Billion in 2011 up 6 percent from 20910. By comparison overall foundation giving declined slightly after accounting for inflation. Corporate foundation giving has rebounded more quickly from the economic downturn than giving by independent and community foundations.  Despite economic volatility, corporate profits have been at record levels.

According to the Foundation Center report, most corporate foundations (53 percent) indicated that they expect their giving to increase. Public Safety represents 20 percent of that $5.2 billion dollars.  Human Services a strong partner for law enforcement had another 20 percent. That is good news for law enforcement agencies. Corporate Foundations such as those established by the insurance industry (162), pharmaceutical manufacturers (31), technology industry, utilities (105), transportation offer funding opportunities for law enforcement organizations and their community partners.

To locate a foundation you need to go to the Foundation Center Website and locate the cooperative collections. This will provide a list of all the libraries in the US which have access to the entire foundation directory. The Foundation Directory is the primary resource to reviewing the priorities and funding preferences for all foundations in the United States.

Completing a proper and full search for a private grant maker is your primary task in identifying 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.

As a reminder, 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.  

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