Frequently I am asked, “What does it take to get a grant from the Ittleson Foundation?” My answer is straightforward yet necessarily ambiguous, “It takes a request that falls within our funding guidelines and something that “sparks” our interests.
The Foundation continues to focus its resources on AIDS, the Environment, and Mental Health. Though funding broadly in each area, we do have specific concerns. In AIDS we focus on prevention and the mental health consequences of the disease. In the Environment we look to educate a new generation of environmentalists. We are also intrigued by urban environmental issues and efforts at resource protection. In Mental Health we prefer projects that cut across the entire field and those that address underserved populations.
Matching one of our program guidelines, however, is only the first step towards a grant. As a small foundation committed to making a real difference, we are strategic in our grant making. We seek opportunities to provide seed money for innovative pilot and model programs. We are willing to take risks on new ideas and inspired yet untested new leaders. This of course is not at the exclusion of proven professionals, many of whom the foundation supported before they became well-recognized. We fund applied research but only when we see it linked to real change in the lives of real people. We look for situations where our involvement brings more to the table than our dollars. Will our participation attract other funders? Can the technical help we offer make an essential difference? Is there a special role we can play?
Lastly, there is that element of “sparking”. Ours is a highly competitive process. With limited funds and many worthy projects, good ideas must compete with one another. In seeking a balance of subject matter, project type and, as a national foundation, geographic diversity, the deciding factor between worthy applications often becomes one of these variables. Hence, as with much of life, there is an element of that little “extra” that enters into the process.
If you feel your request is right for us, I encourage you to submit it. Though our ability to help is limited, our admiration for those working in the field seeking to make a difference is unlimited. We urge you onward in your work and wish you the best of success with us and other potential supporters.