Don't Call Cargill. They'll Call You

Word is getting out about the emergence of Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies as one of the largest  foundations in America, with over $6 billion in assets. Take a spin through the foundation's website and the news looks even better for nonprofits: with giving in seven different areas, any number of organizations might well get their hopes up.

But, wait, there's one small problem: You can't apply for a grant. The website states unequivocally: "Trustees have sole responsibility for identifying grantees and do not consider unsolicited requests for support."

And that is not likely to change anytime soon. Last year, Christine Morse, the foundation's CEO, told the Minnesota Council on Foundations that "We will not be putting out requests for proposals in any of our program areas."

So how do you get money from the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies? Do good work and hope they find you. Or, more accurately, hope that your group is noticed by one of the experts or consultants that the foundation has been relying on to help guide it's grantmaking.

Cargill's model of giving is extremely proactive. The foundation draws on outside help to exhaustively research how to have impact in giving areas, identifies the organizations they believe can help achieve their goals, and then solicits proposals from those organizations.

It's a great approach if your group gets the call. Not so great if you don't.

On the other hand, just because the foundation doesn't take unsolicited proposals, doesn't mean an organization can't find a way to get into Cargill's orbit. The name of the game here, it would seem, is finding out who is advising the foundation and making your case to these folks. And how do you that? Stay tuned.