Fundraising from US Foundations – A Short Guide

Introduction receives many inquiries about US foundation donors: specifically, where to find them and how to apply. This short guide will guide you in successfully applying for US foundation funding – it provides basic tips and provides links to resources that will help give direction to your efforts.

The US Foundation Landscape

The nearly 100,000 foundations in the United States provided almost US$50 billion to NGOs in 2011 alone. About 25% of this amount is allocated for international causes, of which almost half finds its way to NGOs in other countries.

International funding by US Foundations has grown significantly over the past decade – with over 100% growth from 2002 to 2008.  This growth can, for some part, be attributed to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, accounting for more about half of the increase in funding.

Despite the recent economic difficulties in the US and the heavy competition for US foundation dollars there are significant opportunities for well prepared NGOs to succeed.

Am I Eligible?

US Foundations are legally allowed to give to non-US NGOs (with very limited restrictions). The specific goals of the US Foundations will determine if they are interested in doing so. NGOs should critically review the eligibility requirements of each specific foundation to check whether they qualify.

If you do qualify under their eligibility guidelines, you often need to be legally registered in your home country. US Foundations often require proof of registration (such as a certificate of registration; a list of board members; a copy of the statues/bylaws of the organization). If certain documents are not a legal requirement in your country you can explain such in your application. Exceptions can also sometimes be made for organizations that cannot legally register, or are barred from doing so, in the country where they work (e.g. some human rights organizations).

How Do I Find Foundations?

There are several main ways to research and identify likely funders to your project:

  • Identify like-minded organizations (similar to your own) and check the names of foundations that fund them. Many US NGOs frequently have a section in their annual report or on their website where they list their donors
  • Check US Foundation Websites for details on programs and eligibility requirements. Some US Foundation list previous grants got NGOs
  • Search US Foundation databases. There are several databases which you can search (in some cases for a fee) to identify donors. Well known ones include:

How Do I Apply?

A good first step is to network with the organization and find an opportunity to meet (in person or on the phone) to ask them about their priorities and explain why your NGOs work fits with those priorities. In some case if they like what they hear they will request a proposal, and in this way a discussion can help move your application forward.

Many foundations will have their own proposal format, but it sometimes still pays to prepare a short concept note yourself. It would be 1-4 pages long and typically summarize the program justification, objective, strategy, activities, and budget.  Make sure that you adapt your concept note or proposal to the requirements and goals of the foundation.US foundations like to know that you have researched them, know what they want, and have put a bit of effort into preparing an application just for them.

To Learn More has a range of tools and resources available that will help you raise funding from US-based foundations. If you are interested in honing your US Foundation fundraising skills we also suggest you sign up for one of our webinars on this subject which can be found at this link.


  1. I would like to get all about ngo,s

  2. Avatar Getare Christian Community Development says

    I would like to get the above guidelines and training materials.Thanks.