Online philanthropy -- A Site Matching Grantseekers and Funders

I came across an interesting website called Foundation Source Access last week. It's billed as an online meeting place where foundations and non-profits are introduced. Rather than conducting detailed research followed by contact efforts or a letter of inquiry, non-profits have the chance to post a description of themselves, their services, and their needs. Foundations view the profiles, and can research the non-profits further and then reach out to them. Building a page looks like a pretty simple process for non-profits (the site includes tips and instructions). Non-profits can provide links to their own web sites and email addresses for contacts. There's a good search tool, too, allowing searchers to filter non-profits by geography and also by category such as Arts and Culture or Human Services.

The website also features a "Causes" page, which non-profits can use to highlight critical issues. As of today, causes include the Japan Earthquake Crisis, Leadership in Schools, and Using Film to Ignite Social Change. Each links to a more detailed page and, if relevant, a project seeking funding. The page is intended as a forum for non-profits, foundations, and others to develop ideas.

Other features are promised (the site is still a beta version). At this point, there is no charge to non-profits creating and posting profiles, and profiled non-profits can list an unlimited number of project pages in the Access directory until July. After July 1, 2011, Foundation Source Access will charge what it calls "a small fee" to list projects.

Of course, the main question for non-profits is "does it work?" To me, the answer is, it's worth a shot. Andy Bangser, the founder, writes in his blog that Foundation Source's private foundation clients have already given more than $16.5 million to (some of?) the non-profits that have built profiles. Setting up a profile looks simple. If foundations really are reviewing the profiles, then why not? It will take less time than developing a letter of intent, and the picture option means a chance to catch someone's eye in a way that prose, no matter how well-crafted, won't. Try it, and let me know how easy (or not) it is and what happens!

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