Diminishing Corporate and Foundation Funding for Statewide Organization

Dear Kim,

We are a statewide nonprofit arts organization committed to creating greater awareness of the impact of the arts. Like most nonprofits, we rely heavily on membership dues, interest income, and government grants as well as an annual year-end giving campaign for our income. However, with interest income at such a low point, we have lost a significant portion of income. We have written proposals to several corporations that have a statewide presence as well as to several foundations both within our state and outside, but the most common response is “With demands so high within our local communities, we have chosen to fund smaller organizations and keep our dollars local.”

How can statewide organizations counter this attitude? We feel we present our case on an ongoing basis and through the proposals, but somehow we’re not getting through. Is the only way the personal connection ( who knows whom, etc), which means an involved and well- connected board of directors that can open doors?
—Doing More and More for Less and Less

Dear More or Less,

The real problem is that you are looking for money in the wrong place. Corporations and foundations do not have enough money to support the groups they were supporting, so they are cutting back. It’s not just that they are funding only local groups– they are making smaller grants. Corporations in many cases are not making grants at all. You need to move into the world of individual donors. Use your board to find donors who can give you $1,000, $2,000 and so on. Ask your member agencies to introduce you to people who might be interested in a statewide effort and not just a local effort. Document how you help local groups by your statewide presence. You need to shift focus and present your case to people– there are lot more of them and they still have some money. It will take awhile to make this shift, but it will be worth it.
—Kim