Novo Foundation: Should You Apply for Their Grants?
The Novo Foundation is a Brooklyn, New York-based foundation with a focus on projects that support a “holistic, healing, and interconnected vision for humanity.”
With such a profound and relevant cause, you might be thinking that your nonprofit’s projects or programs are a good fit for the Novo Foundation’s grants. But before you invest a lot of your valuable time and energy into crafting a compelling proposal, it’s important to determine whether you and the Novo Foundation are aligned.
So, how do you do that? We will show you! In this article, we will walk you through some important scoring criteria that will help you confidently determine if the Novo Foundation is a good-fit funder for your organization. Let’s get started!
Novo Foundation: Mission and Background
Founded in 2006, the Novo Foundation supports projects that promote holistic and healing visions for humanity. The Foundation focuses on initiatives that address the “root causes” of complex societal problems in an effort to maximize their impact.
Funds are primarily directed toward projects and initiatives that promote economic empowerment for women, violence prevention, the advancement of social-emotional learning, and research and advocacy.
Criterion #1: Add a score in the range of 1-3 to indicate how closely your nonprofit's mission aligns with the Novo Foundation.
Add this when there is little to no understanding of the alignment between you and the Novo Foundation
Add this when there is a distant alignment between you and the Novo Foundation - e.g. Foundation supports a broader funding category.
Add this where there is an evident close alignment between you and the Novo Foundation.
Novo Foundation: How to Apply and Active Grants
In 2019 alone, the Novo Foundation allocated more than $247,000,000 to grantmaking.
Currently, grants are offered by invitation only, which means that the Novo Foundation does not accept unsolicited requests for funding. The Foundation firmly states that it only considers requests from organizations with a personal invitation to apply for support.
What does this mean? It means that if you are not a current grantee, you need to catch the eye of someone at the Novo Foundation who can extend an invitation to your organization to apply for support.
It will take a fair amount of time and effort to catch the attention of the Novo Foundation successfully. So before you make that investment, you should determine whether your project aligns with the Novo Foundation’s giving priorities to help ensure a return on your investment.
You might be wondering—how do I do that? Don’t worry! Instrumentl can help! We are about to take a deep dive into some helpful funding insights that will help you determine if the Novo Foundation is a good fit for your project. If the answer is “yes’, we will also leave you with some action items that will help you grab the attention of the foundation. Keep reading!
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You can discover whether you and the Novo Foundation are a match by simply reviewing some key data from their 990 forms.
However, 990 data can be overwhelming—it is often clunky and hard to read. Don’t stress! Instrumentl analyzes and breaks down funders’ 990 data into digestible chunks of information that can help you determine fit.
Keep reading to learn the three key things that Instrumentl’s 990 tool can show you to help you figure out if applying to the Novo Foundation is worth your time and effort.
#1 General Giving Trends
First, take a look at the foundation’s total giving trends over the last few years. Past giving is a great indicator of future giving!
Looking at the graph above, you can see that there is an overall upward-sloping trend in the Novo Foundation’s giving history. From 2016 to 2018, the Foundation’s total giving increased by 142%—that’s huge! There was a slight decrease of less than 0.26% from 2018 to 2019, but an overall increase of 71% over 5 years. This is good news!
Criterion #2: Add 1 point to your funder score to reflect the Novo Foundation’s positive giving trend for the last 3 years.
Add this since the Novo Foundation has had an increasing giving trend for the last 3 years.
It’s also important to analyze the number of grants awarded and average grant amounts.
Reviewing this information will help you get a sense of how large of an award you may be eligible to receive should you determine the Novo Foundation is a good fit. In the graph below, you can see there was a similar upward trend, from 404 grants awarded in 2016 to 787 awarded in 2019. More good news!
You can also see that there has been a general upward trend in terms of the average grant amount awarded. Average awards increased by 30% from 2016 to 2018 and declined slightly from 2018 to 2019. However, with an overall increase of nearly 13%, it is still a good indicator that both overall giving and average award amounts will continue to increase in coming years!
Criterion #3: Add 1 point to your funder score to reflect the increase in the average grant amount given by Novo Foundation for the past 3 years.
Add this when the average grant amount awarded by the Novo Foundation has increased for the past 3 years.
#2 Funding by NTEE Code
The upward trajectory of Novo’s giving history is promising—but it doesn’t tell you anything about how the foundation budgets and allocates resources for projects that are similar to yours.
Here’s how you can get that info: Instrumentl’s funding by NTEE Codes Breakdown.
As you can see in the above table, the bulk of Novo’s giving is focused on the category Philanthropy, Voluntarism & Grantmaking Foundations, with 481 grants awarded and an average grant amount of $150,000 in that category.
You can also see that Civil Rights, Social Action & Advocacy, as well as Crime & Legal-Related projects have the highest average grant award of $250,000; however, only 98 and 64 awards were made in those categories, respectively.
This information can help you evaluate whether your project falls into any of these categories, see how many grants were awarded in each category, and even learn the average grant amount. You can then determine if these trends align with your project and your needs.
It’s also important to take a deeper dive into each category and subcategory before you make your determination.
For example, looking at the table below, you can see that although Novo lists the average grant amount for Human Services to be $200,000, the actual award amounts range from $5,000 for Alliances & Advocacy to $500,000 for Ethnic & Immigrant Centers.
Analyzing the subcategories within each category will give you a better idea of where your project may fall in terms of the funding amount.
You wouldn’t be able to guess that Ethnic & Immigrant Centers would receive such a large amount of funds just by looking at the average!
Criterion #4: Add a score in the range of 0-2 to your funder score to indicate whether the Novo Foundation’s funding for your niche is what you desire.
Add this when Novo Foundation’s funding for your niche lies below your desired amount.
Add this when Novo Foundation’s funding for your niche is around your desired amount.
Add this when Novo Foundation's funding for your niche is greater than your desired amount.
#3 Openness to New Grantees & Average Grant Amounts
It’s important to assess if the Novo Foundation is open to new grantees, especially since their grants are invitation only. When a funder has a 50% - 60% ratio of new versus repeat grantees, that is a good indicator that they are willing to partner with new organizations and support new projects.
So, how do you find out if a foundation is open to new grantees? Instrumentl can help!
Over the past 3 years, 22% of Novo’s awards have gone to new grantees. In 2018, new grantees made up 54% of the foundation’s giving—which is impressive! However, that number shrunk significantly in 2019, when new grantees made up only 25% of giving.
It’s also important to look at average grant amounts for new versus repeat grantees. As you can see below, the average grant amount for new grantees vs repeat differs by almost $200,000! This is significant.
Criterion #5: If you are a new grantee, add the Novo Foundation’s proportion of giving to new grantees to your funder score.
If you are a repeat grantee, add the Novo Foundation’s proportion of giving to repeat grantees to your funder score.
These proportions are based on percentages from the last 3 years.
Add this when you are a new grantee for the Novo Foundation.
Add this when you are a repeat grantee for the Novo Foundation.
[BONUS TIP!] Geographic Distribution of Past Grantees
Here’s a bonus tip—geographic distribution of past grantees is an important factor to analyze when assessing whether or not a funder is a good fit. While this is only one factor among a whole host that we have discussed, the geographic trends in giving can give you some useful insight as to whether your project will be funded.
In the map above, you can see the geographic distribution of the Novo Foundation’s past giving over the last 7 years.
For the Novo Foundation, New York takes the lead with 1,310 grants awarded. California comes in next with 344 grants awarded.
States like Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota are also historically well-represented, with 93, 51, and 60 grants, respectively.
There are a few states who have never been awarded grants from the Novo Foundation. These include North Dakota, Indiana, West Virginia, Missouri, Utah, and Wyoming.
What does this mean? If your nonprofit scored well on the rest of the parameters we discussed and is based in one of the states that are well-represented among past grantees, this is a good sign that the Novo Foundation is a good fit for you.
But keep in mind—geography is only one factor among many that we have discussed. If your nonprofit is not based in one of the states that have received awards previously, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the Novo Foundation is off the table for you.
Criterion #6: Add a score in the range of 0-3 to your funder score to indicate whether or not your organization’s state has been historically represented.
Add this when your state isn't historically represented - shaded in white - among past grantees.
Add this when your state is sparsely represented - shaded in light purple - among past grantees.
Add this when your state is represented more heavily - shaded in darker purple - among past grantees.
Add this when your state is represented most heavily - shaded in darkest purple - among past grantees.
The Novo Foundation: Key People and Past Grantees
By now, you should feel pretty confident about whether or not the Novo Foundation is a good fit for your nonprofit.
So, what’s next? Here are two action items for you to put on your ‘to-do’ list.
#1 Get in Touch with Novo’s Key People
As we already discussed, the Novo Foundation’s grant-giving is invitation-only. If you have determined that your project is a good fit, you need to start networking with Novo’s key staff members right away.
This can be tricky—you can’t approach just anyone. You need to make sure that your outreach is targeted to people who are relevant to the program you want to apply to and who are influential enough to get your organization on the invite list.
Instrumentl’s “Key People” report includes the Foundation’s employees that check both of these boxes.
From this list, you can determine who to contact first.
In addition to “who” to contact, you need to figure out how you will contact them as well. You might decide to invite a key staff person to your next community event so that they can see your work in action. You could also send them a handwritten note with a compelling pitch that highlights your organization’s accomplishments.
No matter which strategy you employ, you now have the right list of people at your fingertips.
#2 Contact Past Grantees
There is no one more qualified to give you advice about how to get on Novo’s radar than their past grantees.
Using Instrumentl’s past grantees feature, you should be able to identify 5-8 past grantees who have been awarded a grant in your expected range or purpose, and reach out to them for advice.
Insights from past grantees will be valuable in helping you craft a winning grant proposal and in gaining a competitive edge over other nonprofits.
Foundations Similar to Novo
If the Novo Foundation wasn’t proven to be a good fit for you after analyzing the 990 data, don’t be frustrated. It’s good that you figured this out now before you invested a lot of time and energy into conducting outreach and crafting a proposal.
Here’s a list of other grantmaking foundations that are similar to Novo, but may be a better fit for you:
A Breeze of Hope Foundation
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Wrapping Up: Next Steps to Take from Here
It’s so important to evaluate whether or not a funder is a good fit before you invest your valuable time and energy into submitting a proposal. By now, you should be confident in your determination about whether the Nova Foundation is a good fit for your project.
To solidify your determination, add up all your scores from throughout this article. Use the following scoring breakdown to make your final conclusion about funder fit. Be sure to round your cumulative score to the nearest 10th.
Great fit: 8.5 - 11
Good fit: 3.8 - 7.8
Bad fit: <= 0.8
Don’t forget to create your Instrumentl account today to get instantly matched with hundreds of relevant grants. Use Instrumentl to check funders' 990 data and help ensure you are focused only on opportunities with a high return on investment.
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