COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space

Winning Support From a Major Foundation: Tips from a Parks Nonprofit

Dec 31, 2008
Dec 14, 2017

Tupper Thomas

President of Prospect Park Alliance, Administrator of Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York

The following tips were summarized from a conversation with Thomas about the Prospect Park Alliance's $400,000 matching grant from the Kresge Foundation in Troy, Michigan, for restoration of Prospect Park's Woodlands area. The challenge requires the fundraising campaign to be completed on schedule; only then does the organization receive the Kresge grant. The Alliance's grant was unusual because Kresge usually supports the construction or improvement of buildings, not greenspace.

  • Follow the application very carefully - don't vary from it in the least.
  • You must raise a good amount of money before approaching Kresge, which typically wants a fundraising campaign to be in full swing before considering grants. The Alliance announced its $9 million campaign after it had raised $7.4 million. Once you receive it, Kresge's grant should occupy between 20% and 33% of your total fundraising effort.
  • Present a strong plan for the project, as well as a convincing case for your organization. Kresge is particularly interested in your organization's fundraising ability. Your plan should show funds coming from diverse sources. You must show that your Board and all the regular sources have been tapped already, and then show how you plan to find new sources of funds once you receive their challenge, which you must match.
  • You can apply in either May or September, and you usually have a year and a half to raise the match. The actual project can take longer to complete. Call them for their brochure and plan your application at the beginning of the campaign so you don't over- or under-raise, missing your window of opportunity.
  • Make an appointment to visit Kresge staff in Michigan, and take your Board chair (or famous person on the board, if you have one).
  • Make sure to submit a two page report for the interview; they will tell you this.
  • Prepare for a rigorous interview. Kresge's staff is known for giving strong interviews. Know your project and make a convincing argument for it and for your organization. Practice in advance. Tupper used a consultant who had been successful for tips.

Kresge was interested in the Alliance's Woodlands campaign but initially hesitated because:

  • The campaign involved trees, not buildings, and was therefore more difficult to define as a capital project.
  • The New York Community Trust, a large and respected local funder, had not yet contributed.

In response, the Alliance:

  • Explained how the Woodlands project really did qualify as a "capital project" because it involves reconstruction and rehabilitation of many of the Woodland's physical features. Its progress could be measured.
  • Had a person from the Trust call to explain why they had not yet given funding.


(January 31, 1997)


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