Our foundation doesn't accept unsolicited grant requests, so we really don't need a website.
Remember your foundation actually has a website, it's just a copy of your latest 990 tax return. Hopefully you've been careful to explain your grant request policy in every 990 your organization has ever filed. Still, there are dozens of other ways applicants will find out about your foundation and what kind of programs you fund without also finding the “no unsolicited grant requests” policy statement.
If you've ever been thanked on a nonprofit website, had your grant award mentioned in print, contributed to a capital campaign for a building, or been included in the major gifts section of an arts group's performance program, then you can safely assume other nonprofits with relevant missions know your name and will seek to contact you. Their next step will be a simple Google search on your foundation's name, which will either yield your office phone number and mailing address, or a list of neighboring organizations you already fund where the staff know your public-record mailing address and phone number. You've seen nonprofit leaders chatting at events, right ? When they aren't swapping stories, exploring best practices, or complaining about their boards, they're sharing nuggets of wisdom and divulging your foundation's contact info.
A well-made website that answers potential applicant questions in an unambiguous way will help to reduce the number of unsolicited grants you receive. Hopefully your website will show up on the first page of search results, so that people find it right away. Ask your grantees to link directly to your website when they post an announcement about the grant or mention your foundation's name online, since this can improve your search ranking. It's even possible to design your website so that your “no unsolicited grant requests” policy shows up as part of the little page summary in the Google search results.
For any organization which really wants to hammer home this message I'm pleased to report, for a limited time only, WeWontFundYou.org and WeWishYouSuccessInFindingFundingElsewhere.org are still available for your foundation to register.
In practice you should try to keep your website URL short, simple, and in some way representative of your name. For example: You might shorten “The Jonathan E. and Cathrine L. Example Family Foundation for the Elimination of Kitten Diabetes the World Over” to ExampleFnd.org , KittInsulin.org , JCExample.org, JCEF.org, ExampleFamily.org, TheExampleFoundation.org, or simply Example.org.
Keep in mind a foundation website isn't just for communicating your foundation's contact info, funding focus, and grant-making process. A well-built foundation website can actually increase the impact of your grants on the causes you support.
Here is how: First, it raises awareness for those programs among visitors to your website. This means other non-profits will discover closely aligned organizations more easily. Secondly, it offers some social proof to potential donors that the organizations are worth supporting. After all, your foundation supported them, they must be worthwhile. Your foundation doesn't fund trash. People give to organizations which other people support. Lastly, it improves the Internet search rankings of the nonprofits you support. This can have a direct impact on their service reach, since it's like having free search engine advertising for the nonprofit. This small investment helps people find services with greater ease. Depending on what charities you support, this could be a life or death investment.
Perhaps you think that's a gross exaggeration ? Let's look at a real-world example.
I noticed that several prominent foundations in Oregon and Southwest Washington invest in the Portland Women's Crisis Line. Some of PWCL's funders have websites, many do not. Very few funders actually link to PWCL's excellent women-in-crisis-helping website, and that's a shame.
Linking to the website of the Portland Women's Crisis Line , as I just have, actually makes it easier for women in crisis to find the help they need. The link from your website causes the Portland Women's Crisis Line to appear earlier in the search results. The more detail you provide about what the program is and who it serves, the greater the chances that woman in Portland will find PWCL and get help.
If your organization has been holding off on getting a website because you don't accept unsolicited grant proposals, it's time you invested in a better website. If you have a simple website, but don't currently provide links to your grantees websites, it's time to make web-media part of your grant-making strategy. You owe it to the charities you already support.
If you need help building a website which supports your foundation's philanthropic investments, don't hesitate to drop me a line. I'm here to help.