Going After Big Fish: Looking for Funding from Genentech Foundation

It might sound counterintuitive, but there’s something fun and tricky—and also a little bit formulaic—about going after a really insider-y foundation. Especially in the healthcare field, so many of them are swaddled in layers and layers of jargoned secrecy that it takes some serious digging to understand what makes them tick—but with a little research, that knowledge can be gained, and used. Genentech poses the opposite challenge.

The Foundation handed out no less than 823 grants during fiscal year 2012, and many were substantial. Genentech is very transparent with their actual giving, accounting for every last dime in charitable giving, but when it comes to offering advice to would-be grantseekers, they suddenly don’t seem so user-friendly. Most people aren't about to comb through 823 grants, looking for trends, and Genentech's FAQ is vague and thinly written. When it comes to going after such a generous—but ambiguous—giant as Genentech, the strategies you’ve honed seeking funds from other foundations might be obsolete. Here are our tips for approaching Genentech, or any beast of this size, and entreating it to part with some of its cash:

Skim-read. Like an eighth-grader with a dog-eared copy of Hamlet, skim down the list of organizations and amounts listed on Genentech’s site. To make the job less daunting, just go through the first three pages, not the whole list. Set up a few loose categories in your head, like “Research,” “Events,” or “Advocacy,” and pay attention to how quickly they fill up. Genentech gives a bundle of money to charity events—the glitzier the better—and supports a good number of advocacy initiatives as well, but isn’t as big into funding research as many other players are. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a shot; you just need to tailor yourself.

Keyword search. This is your best friend. Don’t resign yourself to plowing through that whole list of grants, searching for a veritable needle—your field—in a haystack. Doing a keyword search will let you hop right over to the part of Genentech’s grantmaking that pertains to your field of interest.

Differentiate yourself. With such a huge realm of giving, and an admittedly not-well-defined FAQ on its website, Genentech likely receives buckets and buckets of proposals. It's doubly important not only to ensure all your grant materials are in order, but to work on crafting your proposal language to match their foundation philosophy. Going through their site, the word that jumps out at us here at IP is genuine. The language they use to talk about their programs is plain and honest—no frills, no bells and whistles. Nothing about wanting to support “the next big breakthrough.” So, in whatever way possible, match your own tone to that sort of sentiment. Be straightforward and balanced, don’t sell yourself too hard, don’t aim to dazzle. Show Genentech a genuine need for funding and support, and they just might show you the money.