To put your organization's request in the best possible position, we recommend strict adherence to a funder's application guidelines and procedures.  Understanding how the funder wants to receive the application is crucial.

When using Foundation Directory, look at the Applications section for information about how to approach the funder. The Contact section also provides website addresses, if available, so you can consult the funder's website for application information.

Use Foundation Directory for free at all Candid partner locations or subscribe to use Foundation Directory anywhere. Eligible nonprofits with revenue or expenses under $1M can also gain a free year of access to Foundation Directory Essential through our Go for Gold! promotion.


RFP is an acronym for Request for Proposal. Sometimes foundations will issue RFPs to publicize the launch of a new initiative or to announce deadlines for grants and prizes. RFPs include specific application instructions.

Foundations are not required to issue RFPs, and most do not, but they still are actively making grants. That means RFPs can help in your funding search, but they should not be your only resource because you will miss many other funding prospects. Also keep in mind that RFPs are normally for project grants, not general operating support.

To find RFPs, start with the RFP Bulletin at Philanthropy News Digest. Or, subscribe to be emailed the RFP Bulletin weekly.

Lean more with our Knowledge Base article: What is an RFP?

Funders without application instructions

If the grantmaker has not stated any contact preferences or application instructions, it generally is safe to call them. Use your research and be ready with your talking points to show that you've spent time learning about them.

Use your personal and social media networks. If a funder's network intersects with yours, ask your supporters if they are willing to introduce your organization to that funder. This is the most effective way of getting the foundation's attention. Social media is a very easy way to interact with a funder, keep up with their activities and interests, and share highlights of your work with them.

Funders that don’t accept applications

You will probably come across some funders that do not accept unsolicited proposals. You should still approach them. Here’s why.

If you don't have personal connections, send a letter that introduces your organization:

  • Explain how your organization connects with the foundation's giving interests.
  • Do NOT ask for money.
  • Ask how the foundation selects who receives its grants.
  • Ask if you can meet with them or give them more information about your organization.

See also our related Knowledge Base article: How do I approach a foundation and build a successful grantee-funder relationship?

Dive in to this topic with our self-paced course: Crafting compelling grant proposals

Learn how to craft a compelling and competitive proposal.

See related Knowledge Base articles on this topic:

- How do I find grants for my nonprofit?
- How do I approach a foundation and build a successful grantee-funder relationship?
- Where can I find Common Grant Application forms?

More articles about proposal writing

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