Private Foundation Grants: How to Find Them Fast in 2024


Amelie Heurteux


Customer Success Manager at Instrumentl

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February 5, 2023

Last Updated:

October 31, 2023

Private foundation grants are some of the most reliable and generous sources of funding available. But how do you go about locating them?

In this comprehensive guide, we dive deep into the realm of private foundation grants and showcase how you can effectively leverage Instrumentl to discover private foundation grants that align with your mission.

Your key takeaways from this article include:

  • Understanding the nature and types of private grants for nonprofits
  • Strategies for identifying and securing foundations grants
  • Detailed walk-through on using Instrumentl to locate relevant grants
  • Insights on improving your success rate in securing private foundation grants.

Let’s dive in.

The Ultimate Find New Funders in Your Backyard Playbook

What Are Private Foundation Grants?

Private foundation grants are financial awards offered by private entities, often funded by a single individual, family, or corporation. These grants are a crucial source of funding for nonprofits, playing a key role in supporting various activities and initiatives.

Private foundation grants are charitable contributions made by private organizations, usually funded by affluent individuals or families. These grants primarily fund specific causes like:

  • Educational programs
  • Medical research
  • Public works projects
  • Other philanthropic endeavors

One notable instance of a private foundation grant comes from the Sunderland Foundation.

Sunderland Foundation

They fund an array of sectors, including:

  • Higher education
  • Human services
  • Arts & culture
  • Health care services

Private foundations are tasked with deciding the grant criteria and choosing the award recipients. To apply for a private foundation grant, organizations must meet certain qualifications and demonstrate need or proposed impact. 

This requires thorough research into the granting organization to ensure alignment with its objectives. Private foundation grants are versatile, with the potential to fund:

  • Start-up costs
  • Operating expenses
  • Resources for projects or events

The amount awarded per grant can vary, so reading all the guidelines before submitting a proposal is crucial. Grantees must also be prepared to meet all required deadlines and report on their projects' progress.

Unlike other types of grants, private foundation grants are limited in scope. This makes them more competitive than other grant opportunities, often requiring extra research and proposal preparation time. Nonetheless, private foundation grants can be an invaluable source of funding for small organizations and initiatives that might otherwise lack support.

Note - There are over 13,000+ Private grants for nonprofits in the United States. Check them out in Instrumentl's free grant database.

Why Are Private Foundation Grants Important?

Private foundation grants are a lifeline for nonprofits, aiding in various activities and initiatives. Despite being competitive, these grants are invaluable, potentially covering start-up costs, operating expenses, and resources for projects or events.

Private grants for nonprofits play a crucial role as a funding source, catering to many needs. Here are four key reasons underlining the significance of private foundation grants for nonprofits:

They provide support for initiatives that may not receive other forms of funding

  • Foundation grants offer financial backing to initiatives that might not qualify for other types of funding. Examples include funding for experiential marketing campaigns or unique research projects.
  • They facilitate organizations to explore new ideas and opportunities they might not have been able to without this alternative support.
  • These grants enable startups to launch their projects without relying on other funding sources that might take time to materialize.

They typically have fewer restrictions on how grant funds are used

  • Unlike many other grants, private grants for nonprofits generally don't come with strict spending guidelines or monitoring.
  • Nonprofits can utilize the funds as they deem fit, depending on their specific needs, without the need for extensive explanations on expenditure or project success.
  • However, it's crucial to read all guidelines thoroughly and fully understand the requirements, as not all private foundation grants are the same. Clarify any doubts before submitting your application to maximize the benefits.

They can help nonprofits access additional opportunities

  • Private grants for nonprofits often lead to access to extra resources like networks and partners.
  • For instance, a foundation may fund a nonprofit that offers educational scholarships to underprivileged students, thereby giving them access to more resources and contacts.
  • This access can help the nonprofit secure additional funds or resources, leading to more opportunities to make an impact in their community.

They can provide long-term support

  • Private Foundations are typically inclined towards awarding recurring grants or funding multiple awards, thereby enabling nonprofits to meet bigger objectives and manage expenses over an extended period.
  • Building relationships with private foundations can help nonprofits secure ongoing funding.

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Should You Pursue Funding from a Private Foundation?

Unlike other grants, private foundations come with fewer spending restrictions and could provide long-term support. These grants pave the way for exploring new opportunities and can grant access to additional resources, making them an invaluable funding source for nonprofits.

Deciding whether private grants for nonprofits are the right choice for your organization is an important strategic decision. It requires understanding the pros and cons, as well as aligning the foundation's objectives with your nonprofit's mission and goals. 

In this section, we will delve into factors that can guide your decision-making process, helping you determine if pursuing funding from a private foundation aligns well with your financial and operational strategies.

Funding Amounts: How Much Can You Get from Private Foundations?

Data from Giving USA indicates that in 2019, private foundations in the United States gave away an estimated $76 billion in grants. Comparatively:

  • Government Grants: Funding from state and federal sources can be quite substantial, as government agencies have larger budgets. However, these grants are extensively regulated,and often earmarked for specific programs or initiatives.
  • Corporate Donations: These are typically smaller in size but might also come with partnerships, sponsorships, or resources. Corporations often prefer to fund projects with a clear social responsibility angle or where they can see a direct impact.
  • Individual Donations: These can vary widely based on the donor's capability and the cause. High-net-worth individuals might offer substantial funding, but these are often one-off donations, not recurring.

Private foundation grants present a mix of these categories, often offering substantial funding that can be used flexibly across projects.

Eligibility Criteria: Are They Hard To Win?

Gaining private grants for nonprofits can be competitive due to their flexibility and the sizable funding on offer. However, private foundations often have clearer and more specific criteria compared to government or corporate grants. 

They are looking to invest in causes they care about and see clear impact. Hence, they are not necessarily harder to win if your nonprofit aligns well with their mission.

Application Process: Is It Arduous?

The application process for private foundation grants can be rigorous, requiring comprehensive proposals, detailed budgets, and compelling narratives. However, compared to government grants, the process is often more straightforward and less bureaucratic. 

The key lies in understanding the foundation's mission and tailoring your proposal to align with its objectives. Despite the work involved, the potential benefits make private grants for nonprofits worth considering. 

With a tool like Instrumentl, you can streamline your search and application process significantly.

How to Find Private Foundation Grants in 5 Steps

Okay, so you're excited to roll up your sleeves and start finding private foundation grants. 

Here’s how to do it.

  • Create a free Instrumentl account and get access to Instrumentl’s grant management platform for 14 days. 
  • There are over 400,000 funders on Instrumentl and we match you with the ones that are relevant to your nonprofit.
  • Instrumentl simplifies the process of finding private foundation grants because we have the most comprehensive database of active funding opportunities in the U.S.. 

This section will guide you through the seven-step process of finding grants using Instrumentl.

Step 1: Set Up Your Nonprofit Within Instrumentl

To begin your journey towards finding private grants for nonprofits, you'll first need to create a free trial account with Instrumentl. This trial gives you the opportunity to explore and familiarize yourself with the platform and its features. 

After you’re in Instrumentl, you will need to start creating a new project. You’ll have three steps to complete:

  1. Share details on where you’re located.
  2. Create a project name.
  3. Set up your grant search.

You will start by entering your organization’s information.

Fill In Details On Your Organization

In the “1. Organization” section, you’ll fill in details on your nonprofit, such as your location and fiscal year. This will help filter out grants that aren’t relevant to the aea you serve.

Provide An Overview Of Your Project

In the next section, “2. Overview,” you’ll create a project.Think of a project on Instrumentl as similar to a “saved search.”

A Matches & Tracking project will provide you with both a tracker and funding opportunity matches. You'd select this type of project if you are seeking out new funding opportunities.

Specify The Types of Grants You’re Looking For

In the last section, “3. Matches Setup,” you’ll specify:

  • The type of nonprofit you are (most commonly, just “Nonprofit” rather than “College/ University” or “Zoo”)
  • If you’re a faith-based nonprofit and only want to see grants specifically for that
  • The geographical areas you serve
  • Your fields of work
  • The grant size you’re looking for
  • What you intend to use the funding for (projects, programs, operating expenses, etc.)

When you fill out all the relevant fields, click “Save and Exit.”

Invite Your Team Members

Grant management isn’t done in isolation. Invite your team members who will help manage your grants within Instrumentl.

After you’ve completed these steps, we’ll show you all the best matches.

Step 2: Narrow Your Grant Search To Only Private Foundations

When you first start reviewing your matches, you’ll notice that Instrumentl resemble an email inbox. The matches are on the left, and when you click on one, the details will show on the right. 

The left side shows all your matches:

  • Funding Opportunity Matches” are individual active grants.
  • Funder Matches” are funders who match your search criteria.

We have over 100 grants to review, so to narrow it down further, , use the filters to selectt "Private" under the “Filter” dropdown tab.

As a result, you'll see only private foundation grants that match your criteria. The platform also allows you to filter by geographic region, funding amount, and more.

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Step 3: Prioritize Your Grant Opportunities

After you have a list of your top-matched opportunities, you can dig deeper into each potential private grant for your nonprofit. By clicking on each profile, you can quickly review the relevant information in the "FUNDER OPPORTUNITY" and "FUNDER 990 REPORT" tabs. 

These sections contain crucial details that will help you assess the alignment of a grant opportunity with your nonprofit objectives.

The “"FUNDER OPPORTUNITY” tab provides a snapshot of the organization. Here you’ll see relevant information such as the grant’s focus area, type of support, and priority funding areas.

The "FUNDER 990 REPORT" tab provides a summary of data from the foundation's 990 filings with the IRS. This data offers invaluable insights, such as:

  • the foundation's average giving, 
  • the number of grants they have awarded, 
  • the organizations it has previously funded, 
  • its geographical focus, 
  • its openness to new grantees, and 
  • the causes it supports.

Leveraging these features on Instrumentl provides an in-depth analysis of potential private grants for nonprofits. Reviewing them ensures they alignn with your mission and strategic goals before you start the application process.

Step 4: Save The Grants That You Want To Pursue Further

Once you’ve gone through the grant matches thoroughly, save the ones that catch your attention. By doing so, you can easily revisit the grants at a later time in your Grant Tracker, where you can keep track of which you’ve decied to pursue with a letter of intent, or full proposal. 

To save your grants, you can simply click on the big red "save" button located at the bottom of the screen. Once you click on it, a pop-up window will appear where you can write any notes about the grant that you would like to revisit later. 

Instrumentl allows you to organize your saved grants by marking them as "Researching." This feature helps to segment your grant opportunities according to your progress. 

Step 5: Store Saved Grants In Your Tracker For Future Reference

The Instrumentl Grant Tracker serves as a reliable and efficient tool for managing your pool of saved grants. 

The Grant Tracker functions as a personal database for your prospective private grants, keeping all your selected opportunities in one place for easy access and organization. 

Moreover, the Tracker allows you to update and monitor the status of your grant applications.

Each grant saved in your Tracker can have its status updated as you progress through the application process. To change a grant's status, simply click on the grant within your Tracker. 

You'll find a "Status" dropdown where you can select the appropriate status for your grant. You can choose from various status options, including "Researching," "Planned," and "Submitted.

This feature allows you to have real-time updates on your tasks and helps you efficiently manage your application processes. With Instrumentl Tracker, navigating the world of private grants for nonprofits becomes a more streamlined and organized endeavor.

5 Common Private Foundation Grants FAQs

This section will address common queries, providing clear, concise answers to help nonprofits navigate the sometimes complex world of private grants. 

What types of private foundation grants are available?

Private foundations offer a broad spectrum of grants aimed at funding diverse projects and initiatives. The specific type and size of funding largely hinge on the foundation's purpose and primary focus areas.

For example, some foundations may focus on supporting education projects, while others concentrate on environmental causes. Similarly, grant sizes can vary dramatically, from a few thousand dollars to millions.

In short:

  • Variety of Grants: Private foundations provide grants for a wide array of projects and initiatives.
  • Dependent on Foundation's Purpose: The kind of funding primarily depends on the foundation's purpose and its specific areas of focus.

How do I apply for a private foundation grant?

The process of applying for a private foundation grant can differ from one foundation to another. However, a general outline of the process includes:

  • Online Application: Submit an online application detailing your project and how it aligns with the foundation's mission.
  • Additional Documents: Depending on the foundation, you may need to provide letters of recommendation and/or financial statements.
  • Grant Proposal: Prepare a detailed grant proposal outlining your project, its goals, and how you plan to use the funding.
  • Follow-Up: After submitting your application, follow up with the foundation periodically to check on the status of your request.

What criteria should I consider when choosing a private foundation grant?

When selecting a private foundation grant, it's crucial to consider:

  • Alignment with Mission: Ensure your mission aligns with that of the granting foundation.
  • Funding Availability: Consider how much funding is available and the duration it typically takes for grants to be awarded.
  • Funding Restrictions: Check for any restrictions on how the funds may be used and the frequency with which applications are accepted.
  • Foundation's Reputation: Research the foundation to ensure its values align with yours and it has a positive track record.

How long does it take to receive a private foundation grant?

The timeline for receiving a private foundation grant can vary widely, depending on the organization's application processing speed and the competitiveness of the grant in question.

  • Typical Waiting Period: Expect a waiting period of at least three months from the time of application submission to hearing back.
  • Longer Wait Times: Depending on the specific grant, the wait time can extend up to 18 months.

What can I do with awarded funds from a private foundation grant?

The awarded funds from a private foundation grant can be used in multiple ways:

  • Diverse Uses: Funds can be used for diverse activities such as research and development, community initiatives, educational programs, and more.
  • Contractual Specifications: The use of the funds will depend on what was specified in the contract with the granting organization.
  • Fewer Restrictions: Compared to other types of grants, private foundation grants generally have fewer restrictions, offering more flexibility in fund usage.

Wrapping Up: How to Find Private Foundation Grants Fast

Finding private foundation grants the traditional way can be a time-consuming and overwhelming process. Fortunately, tools like Instrumentl make it so much easier and more efficient. Next, up learn how to win private foundation grants in our step-by-step guide.

Instrumentl is the perfect solution for nonprofit organizations looking to streamline how they find and apply for private foundation grants in 2023. Sign up today for a free trial and start seeing more success with securing private foundation grants!

Amelie Heurteux

Amelie Heurteux

Amelie Heurteux, a Customer Success Manager at Instrumentl, works day in and day out training nonprofits and grant writers how to efficiently prospect new funders and streamline their grant tracking and management processes.

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