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Four Foundation Funding Myths By Debbie DiVirgilio

What Myths Have You Been Believing?

Myths are sometimes hard to detect, especially when it come to foundations. Many nonprofits seek foundation funding to support the mission of their organization. However, many grant seekers frequently become discouraged and frustrated—often because they have bought into one of the common myths about foundation funding. Others never seek grant funding because they believe one or more of the foundation funding myths.

Grant funding is a viable funding source for most nonprofits and ministries.

Myth 1 – Funders are clear about what they want to fund.

Truth: Because funders have the money, they are always in control. Foundations are one entity in the US where there is relatively little accountability. Although the IRS requires that foundations distribute a portion of their funds each year, foundations are not required to report that their funding decisions were in alignment with their missions. Thus, foundation leaders can make a decision to fund any organization they want. Most foundations are required to ensure that all grants are awarded to nonprofit organizations.

Myth 2 – When applying for a grant, do your best to conceal your weaknesses.

Truth: It is always important to be honest when applying for grant funds. Most funders understand that organizations have struggles and areas of weakness. Obviously, you want to discuss the things that your organization does well; according to foundation officers, it is important to talk about the dependability of your organization. In other words, demonstrate that your organization can be counted on to do what it says it is going to do. Prove to the funder that your organization has staying power. A big concern of funders is that nonprofits will face financial challenges and close their doors; it is your job to prove that your organization will be able to survive.

Myth 3 – Funders don’t read grant reports.

Truth: Many organizations have the mistaken belief that grant funders do not read the grant reports that they submit. However, many program officers read grant reports and compile them into a report that is submitted to the foundation’s board of directors.  A grant report is your opportunity to shine…share with the funder how their funding made a difference in the lives of those you serve. And, if something did not go as planned in your implementation, be honest and share that information as well. Foundations recognize that innovation sometimes means projects are not successful. When sharing aspects of your project that did not go as planned or as hoped, but sure you share what you learned and how you can use that information to strengthen the work of the organization going forward.

Myth 4 – Always embellish and stretch, especially in the budget.

Truth: While funders may not know the exact costs to implement and operate a program, they have a general idea. Remember, they see hundreds of proposals and hundreds of budgets. Funders would prefer that you request what you need, but don’t stretch the budget or the program’s reach. If you are writing a report, this information will be discovered and dishonesty will not get repeat funding.

As your organization prepares to apply for grant funding, plan to write about the needs your organization seeks to solve, how you will solve them and how you will measure your accomplishments. Each area of your proposal will be evaluated to determine whether or not the organization will receive funding.


Debbie DiVirgilio is a Certified Governance Trainer through BoardSource and a Licensed Standards for Excellence Consultant. She is the President of the Faith Based Nonprofit Resource Center. She more than 25 years of experience serving in the nonprofit sector in a variety of roles including Board Member, Executive Director, Program Director, and Grant writer. She is a  Christian Leadership Alliance Credentialed Christian Nonprofit Leader.


Join Debbie DiVirgilio as she facilitates our upcoming Outcomes Online Academy module

Growing Grant Income beginning on April 5th!

Learn how to understand and navigate the world of private foundations and more.



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