The Foundation Center
What is www.foundationcenter.org?
The Foundation Center’s Web site [www.fdncenter.org, or www.foundationcenter.org—both will take you there] is “Your gateway to philanthropy on the World Wide Web.”
When and why did the Foundation Center come into being?
The Foundation Center was founded in 1956 as a library and independent information resource, emerging from Congressional McCarthy-era hearings about the secretiveness of foundations. Its mandate from the beginning was “to foster public understanding of the foundation field.”
Since our founding, the center has fulfilled that mission by creating libraries around the country—first in New York and then in Washington, D.C., Cleveland, San Francisco, and Atlanta. We began publishing The Foundation Directory in 1960, and today we publish more than 50 grantmaker directories and grant guides about the work of foundations. In the last five years, we have expanded our publishing efforts into the digital realm by launching our web site in 1994 and publishing the first version of FC Search: The Foundation Center’s Database on CD-ROM in 1996. Our resources are also available in more than 200 Cooperating Collections across the country [www.fdncenter.org/collections/index.html]
Your driving philosophy is. . .
To foster understanding of the foundation field and act as a bridge between grantmakers and grantseekers.
Who is your constituency?
Grantseekers, grantmakers, researchers, policy makers, the media, and the general public.
What percentage are film or media arts-centered?
A relatively small percentage. Our grantseeker audience, as defined by organization focus, looks something like this: education (25 percent), social/human services (20 percent), health (10 percent), arts (10 percent), religion (5 percent), the environment (4 percent) public interest/advocacy (3 percent), job seekers (2 percent), science and technology (1 percent), and international (1 percent). Everyone else—about 20 percent of the total—falls into the “Other” category, and a sizable portion of that group is individual grantseekers.
Are your physical offices set up simply as resource libraries, or do you offer consultations or other personalized services?
The librarians are more than willing to direct library patrons to appropriate resources and are happy to instruct our patrons in the best use of those resources. They do not offer personalized services to patrons or offer suggestions about specific funders.
You offer grantwriting courses at your offices around the country. Do you offer a parallel version online?
The Center’s Proposal Writing Short Course, available online at www.fdncenter.org/onlib/shortcourse/prop1.
html, is one of the best introductions to proposal writing on the web.
The Foundation Center has different chapters across the U.S.; where are these located?
The Center has five libraries across the country:
New York: (212) 620-4230; Washington, D.C.: (202) 331-1400; San Francisco: (415) 397-0902; Cleveland: (216) 861-1933; Atlanta: (404) 880-0094.
How comprehensive is the web site’s listing of foundations and other resources?
More than 900 searchable links to grantmaker web sites and 350-plus links to other nonprofit resources. A feature called Foundation Finder [www.lnp.fdncenter.org/finder.html] provides basic facts on more than 50,000 private and community foundations in the U.S.
Later this fall, we’ll be launching, for a monthly fee, the Foundation Directory On-line, a searchable database of the 10,000 largest private and community funders in the U.S.
Name a few media-related grantmakers in your searchable database.
On the Private Foundations on the Internet section of our site [www.fdncenter.org/grantmaker/gws_priv/priv.
html] a search on the keyword “media” will list 19 private foundations with a stated interest in funding media-related projects of one kind or another. Each name in that list links you to a more complete description of that foundation. If, after reading the description, you want to learn more about that particular funder, you can jump directly to the foundation’s own web site.
After you’ve exhausted the private foundation possibilities move on to the corporate grantmaker [www.fdncenter.org/grantmaker/gws_corp/corp.html] and grantmaking public charity sections of the site [www.fdncenter.org/grantmaker/gws_pubch/pubch.html]. Granted, the free features at our site will only give you a partial list of funding prospects. But, again, they’re the best and most comprehensive free resources of their kind on the web.
A comprehensive search of the foundation field is possible using FC Search, our CD-ROM product, which is available to the public at no charge in all five of our libraries as well as in most of our Cooperating Collections.
Which items on your site are specifically for individuals?
Check out the FAQ section of our Online Library [www.fdncenter.org/onlib/faqs/faq.html] under “Individual Grantseekers.” The answer to the question, “What is a fiscal agent, and how do I find one?” is at [www.fdncenter.org/onlib/faqs/faq07.html]
Will filmmakers realistically be able to find specific leads as much as general guidance?
I think so, although our site is not yet a replacement for our libraries. Remember, your results are partly a function of patience and your skill at online searching. Don’t forget to search the archives of Philanthropy News Digest [www.fdncenter.org/pnd/search.cfm], another of the center’s services.
What are the chances that your site will list contact info for all the grant givers mentioned in such a search?
We try to include links to individual grantmaker web sites—which usually provide (at a minimum) a mission statement, a brief history of the organization, program descriptions, application guidelines and procedures, and contact information—in all our grantmaker search products.
But, remember, of the 50,000-plus private and community foundations in the Center’s main database, fewer than 800 have a web site or presence of their own. Use our Foundation Finder lookup database [www.lnp.fdncenter.org/finder.html] for the more than 50,000 private and community foundations in the U.S.
What information does your site present on each grantmaker?
The Grantmaker Information area of the site [www.fdncenter.org/grantmaker/index.html] offers more than 700 paragraph-length descriptions of individual funders who are already on the web. These are organized by foundation type (private foundations, corporate grantmakers, grantmaking public charities, and community foundations), and can be searched by keyword or phrase.
Later this fall we plan to launch the Foundation Directory Online, a fee-based version of our flagship print publication, The Foundation Directory. The Directory Online will provide quick, convenient access to current information about more than 10,000 of the largest private grantmakers in the United States. In addition to the name, address, contact person, and telephone number for the foundation, each record in the Directory Online database will include the foundation’s establishment date, type, financial data, purpose and activities, fields of interest, types of support, limitations, publications, application information, names of officers and trustees, number of staff, and, where available, a list of up to ten selected grants.
What other special resources should independent mediamakers know about on your website?
Philanthropy News Digest [www.fdncenter.org/pnd/
current/index.html], our weekly compendium of news in the field, is an invaluable resource for grantseekers, as it covers the activities of foundations, government agencies, and other funders regardless of whether they’re on the web or not. The free PND archive comprises some 220-plus issues and more than 2,400 individual abstracts dating to January 1995 and is searchable by keyword or phrase.
Grantseekers who are new to the process should take a look at our Online Orientation to Grantseeking [www.fdncenter.org/onlib/orient/intro1.
html] and/or our “User-Friendly Guide to Funding Research and Resources” [www.fdncenter.org/onlib/
Name a few essential web resources for individual artists seeking funding from private or government foundations (i.e. online databases, journals, etc.)?
First stop for individual artists seeking funding should be the terrific ArtsWire site [www.artswire.org], sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts [www.nyfa.org], which has an excellent (though somewhat pokey) site of its own. Open Studio: The Arts Online [www.openstudio.org], a national initiative of the D.C.-based Benton Foundation [www.benton.org] and the National Endowment for the Arts [www.arts.endow.gov/] is a must, as is the NEA site. The half dozen or so regional arts organizations in the U.S.—the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the New England Foundation for the Arts, Arts Midwest—are good places to check out, as are many of the state arts organizations and state humanities councils.
What advice do you give individuals who are searching for that perfect foundation for their project?
Do your homework. The only way you’re going to find the “perfect” foundation is to exhaust all your research possibilities.
What’s the most common mistake individuals make when fundraising within the world of foundations?
That foundation program officers sit around waiting for grantseekers to knock on their doors. These are incredibly busy people who sift through mountains of wonderful—and not-so wonderful—proposals every year.
Famous last words.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. It’s amazing what you can do with pluck and a thick skin.