Check List

There are few more challenging and difficult tasks than fundraising, especially in this climate of shrinking budgets. No foundation is alike, and family foundations are unique, but I hope that these suggestions might help in crafting a more successful proposal to the Cornell Douglas Foundation. 

Working for a foundation, I know that the vast majority of proposals have been sent after a great deal of labor, and with a large amount of hope.  Few proposals are easy to dismiss, and those which are declined are usually from worthy organizations whose mission might be too similar to others, or might fall outside our funding areas. The Board always has enormous respect for the ideas, energy, and vision of all organizations.

Cover Letter

Cover letters should be addressed to the executive director, administrative director, or to the president,  using the person’s last name, unless you have a well-established relationship meriting more informality. If you can't find a name on the website, make a call and ask to whom you should send a proposal;  your letter will likely receive the briefest of review if addressed: "To whom it may concern."  Getting the name of the foundation wrong will put a minus in the column as well.


Every foundation may have different guidelines or requirements, so if applicable, include all documents requested by the individual foundation. The cover letter should be short, informative, and present a solid knowledge of the foundation's areas of interest.  Sending in a 990 from two years before is not just sloppy, but will appear that either no one thought it would be noticed, or that the past year was not as financially strong as previous years.

Funding Amount

Research the funding amount which is reasonable for the foundation to grant; requesting funding over the foundation's average amount, especially by an organization new to the foundation, often results in the proposal being declined. Grant size average: $15,000 - $50,000.


As much as we would like to have the chance to meet with the impressive people within an organization, it is difficult for our staff to schedule face-to-face meetings, or to hold lengthy phone conversations.

Areas of Focus

Environmental Health and Justice

Land Conservation

Mountaintop Removal Mining

Sustainability of Resources

Watershed Protection

Financial Literacy for Elementary and High School Students (*unsolicited submissions not accepted)

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Photo by Cindy Jones