Geographic Testing

Carefully scrutinize entries in printed or electronic grantmaker directories for geographic restrictions. California might be categorized as one of the geographic areas funded by a Miami-based foundation, but if multiple social service agencies are funded in Florida and the only West Coast grant supports the same private university year after year, your Pasadena youth shelter faces an uphill battle. Family foundations often fund in their immediate geographic area, with out-of-state exceptions only made for the donor’s alma mater or a hospital where a relative received medical treatment. Supplementary research through newspaper archives and web search engines can clarify how often a funder contributes outside its home community.

On the Central Coast of California, local agencies often fall in a dead zone between Southern California grantmakers and Northern California grantmakers. If a Los Angeles-based funder makes repeated gifts for environmental projects with some grants awarded as far north as Santa Barbara, then a possible case could be made for San Luis Obispo County. “Geographic testing” can be done through a letter of inquiry that specifically builds an urgent case for support in this county or through a phone call to a program officer. Remember that you must have exceptional reasons for the foundation to stretch its regional parameters and that a “no” will probably prevent any future proposal submissions.

Consider developing consortiums or partnerships that expand the scope of your proposed project beyond an isolated area. For example, anti-smoking organizations throughout the state might join forces to prepare a major public relations campaign with a grant divided between all local participants.

Most grantmakers value the dissemination of successful models. If a foundation provided major funding for an innovative senior citizen outreach program in New York City, investigate whether some aspects of that model could be tested in our smaller, rural community. When appealing to major national foundations, emphasize and prove that your organization’s project can serve as a model for other neighborhoods.