Why do people and organizations give away money? Foundations and corporate giving programs have to submit a set of bylaws that clearly and specifically state why they are in business to give away money. This is part of the official papers they send in to receive their nonprofit status. In the case of an individual who establishes a foundation, normally there is a life event or a personal philosophy that drives the problem the individual wants solved and upon which the foundation is based. Sometimes this is a person who has become ill with a disease so the foundation focuses on curing mental illness, researching cancer cures, or taking care of crippled children. Sometimes this is a particular philosophy such as improving the quality of life for people in Africa, improving the quality of education, or influencing world leaders to end nuclear armament.
In the case of government programs, an issue that gets the public's attention is normally a driving force because government programs are highly political. When you read in more than one popular media site that there is a huge teen pregnancy problem, you can bet there will be a funding program to solve that problem. If you read that alcohol consumption is killing college students, then you can bet there will be a funding program to combat that problem. Government programs are designed to solve problems that are certainly real but also that have captured the attention of the public or of a group with a significant or a distinctive presence within a society. Let us reiterate—this is not to say the problems are not real— they certainly are—but they have to gain a certain public profile usually before funding follows.
Funders have an agenda—to award funds based on their own interests and on the purposes for which they were established. They will only fund solutions to problems they have identified as being important. Many people confuse fundraising, where one letter requesting money for a good cause is mailed to many organizations or individuals, with grant seeking. Grant makers are not swayed by good causes other than those in which they already have an interest. Some allow unsolicited proposals. Others have set grant projects where they formally solicit proposals for a particular effort. Still others do both. It is therefore critical that a potential grant seeker thoroughly research a potential funder to determine exactly what the funder is interested in before deciding to send a proposal.
Your problem—the problem for which your project is a potential solution—must match a critical interest for the funder in order for your proposal to be considered. Research on funders is discussed in our bestseller, Grantseeker's Toolkit: A Comprehensive Guide to Finding Funding.2
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