Sustaining Funding for Teen Science Cafés

The Teen Science Café model is designed so that, in theory, any program can be very low cost.  Venues and food can be found for free, teen leaders who are properly guided to increasingly take charge of the planning and delivery of each month’s café will ideally reduce the need for staff hours for an adult leader. Adult leaders could even be volunteers.  Marketing and activity materials, and even and t-shirts for the teen leaders can even be paid for through small local sponsorships. However, it does take some time to set this all in place.  Some institutions have a development office that can help find small to large pockets of money for these activities, but others rely on the program director to find those funds.
To help these Members build skills in seeking funds from private and corporate foundations and charities, here are some of the tricks of the trade.
This resource is adapted from a TSCN webinar series presented by Carol Conine of Conine and Associates and Howard Rutherford, at the University of South Florida College of Marine Sciences.

Part 1. How to Identify and Research Funding Prospects

First, determine the types of prospects you want to fund your program.

The best prospects for Teen Science Café nodes are Private Funding Sources, which include:


Sponsorship could be in the form of money or in-kind donations

2.Corporations and Businesses                             

3.Local Private Sector Organizations

4.Individual Donors


1. Foundations

A private foundation is defined as –

a non-governmental, nonprofit organization, managed by a Board of Trustees or Directors, established to give financial support to charitable, educational, religious or social organizations working towards the common good of society.

Types of Foundations

  • Independent Foundations and Family Foundations

    Grantmaking organizations whose funds are generally derived from an individual, a family, or a group of individuals.

    Examples: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

     The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation


  • Corporate or Company-Sponsored Foundations

Created and funded by a corporation as a separate legal organization.  Assets are derived from the company/corporation.  They are managed by a board of directors composed of corporate officers. Giving programs often focus on communities served by the corporation.

             Examples:   ExxonMobil Foundation

Wells Fargo Foundation


  • Community Foundations

These serve a specific region or geographic area. They focus on local needs. Technically, these are not “private” foundations, but are considered a “public charity” because they raise money from the public each year. Income from their endowments are used to make grants.

  Example: Greater Houston Community Foundation


How to Research Foundation Prospects

  • Foundation Center best place to research foundations. They have unique databases at various costs, some research is free.
  • IRS 990s – In the United States, all nonprofits, including grant giving foundations, MUST file an annual 990 with the IRS. The latest 990 will tell you what the foundation funded most recently.
  • Obtain 990s through:
  1. Foundation Center databases
  2. GuideStar – – has a basic service free-of-charge allowing you to call up 990s for foundations.


2. Corporations

Corporations make grants in two ways:

  1. through separately established foundations as discussed above, and
  2. through corporate giving programs. A Corporate Giving Program is established and administered within the corporation, usually administered by marketing or public relations unit.

Example: Bank of America

                  J.P. Morgan Chase


How to Research Corporations

  • Foundation Center – has a Corporate Giving Online database.
  • The Chronicle of Philanthropy – is online philanthropy newspaper with a great deal of information about corporations and corporate giving.
  • Internet Searches – Research corporations in your community online.

3. Local Private Organizations

Every community has numerous private organizations and small businesses which contribute smaller dollars to nonprofit organizations.


  • Civic Clubs – Rotary, Kiwanis, Junior League
  • Local Chapters of Associations – Junior League
  • Small Businesses
  • Local stores of major corporations – Walmart, SAM’S, Target

How to Research Local Private Sector Organizations:

Be resourceful. Collect lists of local:

  • Civic clubs and research to see if they make contributions.
  • Associations that provide contributions.
  • Businesses from the Chamber of Commerce to identify targets.
  • Stores of major corporations and banks in the community and research how to ask for a contribution.


4. Individual Donors

In 2012, over 72% of the funds raised for non-profits ($316 billion) came from individual donors versus 15% from foundations, 7% bequests and 6% corporations.


  • Individual cultivation is a process not a one-time gift.
  • Stewardship is important to reduce natural attrition of individual donors

How to Research Individual Donors:

Be attentive.

  • Collect a list of board members, staff and volunteers and research to see if they make contributions.
  • Engage in conversation with current stakeholders and identify interests.
  • Invite individuals to institutional events.
  • Share impact and success stories.
  • Say thank you as often as you can.



Part 2. Developing a Case Statement and Building Connections to Prospective Funders

A case statement is a document that explains to your potential donors what you need the money for and what the benefits will be if the donor gives to your cause. It should clearly state your organization’s vision and mission, why funding is needed, the outcomes of investing that money, and why a gift from the organization is a good idea.

Learn to develop your case statement with these resources.


The Case Statement should:

  • be written for donors
  • clearly illustrate your organization’s or program’s mission and vision for the future
  • tell donors why you need funding and what outcomes you are seeking from their investment
  • offer strong reasons why donors should make gifts to your organization


Writing a Case Statement

Components of a Case Statement include:

Interesting Opening – Start with a short statement that catches the donor’s attention.

State Your Mission and Vision – Why does your program exist and why should people care?

Explain the Teen Science Café Program – Give the   particulars about your program and make it   short. Describe your personnel.


Outcomes and Impact – State your outcomes.  Donors want to know what their funding will produce. You can use statistics and testimonials here.

Budget – How much money will the program cost; how much will you raise (cash or in-kind); and what will be your revenue sources?

Sustainability – Donors want to know how you will sustain the program after their grant ends.    State your long-term funding strategy.


Tips for Writing the Case Statement

  • Don’t use jargon – Donors will not understand scientific jargon
  • Don’t make it too long – Donors will not read a long document
  • Write with some emotion – Donors will respond to the appeal
  • It is a living document – make changes as you need to on the case statement as you start raising the money you need


Resources to Learn More about Case Statements

  • Foundation Center – Grant Space

There is a lot of information on this website about case statements, as well as some sample case statements.


Development Cycle or “4Rs”

  • Identification and “Research” – Who will you ask and what will you ask for
  • Cultivation or “Romance” – Building relationships, engaging the prospect and preparing to make the ask
  • Solicitation or “Request”– making the ask
  • Stewardship – “Recognition” and continuing to engage donors


Building the Connections

  • Cultivation or “Romance”– most time consuming i.e. 60% of time spent building a relationship with donor
  • How will you make contact? – direct mail, telephone, email, event, personal visit and peer-to-peer networking
  • Who will do the cultivating?
  • How will the relationship be sustained?

Want to read more? Here is a guide to fundraising from the Science Festival Alliance team: Fundraising Keys- IPSEC 2014

Stewardship Tools – Creating a schedule to take care of the donor relationship

  • Guidelines– determine for each giving level
  • Technology– touch points, reports and calendar reminders
  • Database– segment to generate guest lists for events
  • Contact Reports– record substantive contacts with donors and prospective donors
  • Website and social media- opportunity to update and recognize donors



Part 3. Elements of a Strong Proposal: Tips and Tricks of the Trade


  1. Read all guidelines from the funder and follow their directions completely.
  2. Use the format suggested by the funder for organizing your proposal.
  3. Support your statements with facts – do not write assumptions.
  4. Have a reasonable budget that supports the program activities.



All proposals should address the following issue areas:

  1. Organizational History, Mission and Activities
    • It is extremely important to provide a brief overview of your organization.
    • Make sure  you discuss aspects of your organizational capability for the program described in the proposal.
  2. Need
    • You must describe why your program is needed.
    • You can use statistics here and any other information that supports your case.
  3. Proposed Program
    • Describe your program in detail so a funder can understand the activities that are involved.
    • Describe the population served.
    • List goals, objectives and strategies.
    • Describe collaborators and locations for the program.
  4. Personnel
    • You should describe the personnel involved in the program and their qualifications.
  5. Evaluation
    • Funders are interested in how you will evaluate your program.
    • Describe your evaluation plan as well as any preliminary results from pilot programs. This gives your proposal a lot of credibility.
  6. Sustainability
    • Funders will want to know how you will sustain the program after their grant concludes.
    • You really need to describe your plan for finding continuing funding.
    • Described any leveraging opportunities both cash and in-kind.
  7. Budget
    • You must include a detailed, line-item budget   with your proposal. The budget should be   realistic and fit the program activities. Amount   requested should stay within the RFP or past   giving history.

Part 4.  Sound webinar recording: Panel of Funders’ Share Their Perspectives.

Recorded May 27, 2014, but the info is timeless. 

This webinar recording is unique and valuable to anyone thinking of working with these foundations now or in the future. The TSCN hosted a stellar line-up of panelists. Read the Sustainability_Panel_Bios.

Sustainability-Webinar-Series-5-5-27-14: Note that there is a bit of an echo in the first few minutes, but the sound quality improves.

Main points from the panelists: 

Susan Richardson, Director of Communications at Southwestern Energy in Houston‘s main thoughts:

  • Getting the right info at the right time from the right person will get her attention because she is inundated every day with unsolicited requests. She doesn’t take a lot of cold calls via phone.
    • Someone who can clearly articulate what research they have done on their company, the level of their giving budget, and the focus of their giving and the types of charities they are involved with).
    • Come in with a name of someone she knows – a shared contact within or outside the company; preferably someone within their business community who can champion the cause you are asking for can help open the dialogue with her.
  • Getting a dialogue going with her is preferable than having her a 20-100 page request.
  • Follow up quickly following a call with her with materials that will help her think about your need/project and review the next day.


Gloria Bounds at CenterPoint Energy in Houston:

  • Don’t have a Foundation so they don’t have a set amount of grants they give out.
  • Know their main focus areas of giving.
  • Know their corporate giving structure: where their employees reside are often locations where they are interested in supporting.
  • Personal relationships are important to establish a dialogue. Rather than cold-calling, make a relationship with someone who can connect you to the funding person.
  • They also do a lot of in-kind sponsorships (printing etc.) – so don’t forget about that area of sponsorship.


Ann Shaler, SVP at Bank of America, Tampa Bay Market Manager:

  • Have a Foundation so have a very structured process of grant giving – read online and follow it verbatim.
  • You need to figure out who the local foundation person is for your strain of need, and contact them via email or just pick up the phone to begin to figure out exactly where their local interests and giving strains lie.
  • Know when the funding cycles are. We can talk now, but you may not be eligible until the next cycle. If you aren’t funded and you were within the deadline, call and ask why you weren’t successful. A ‘no’ might not mean that you won’t be successful next time.



Related Resource on Read Food-raising and Fundraising From Local Businesses