The Rock Foundation is a California-based foundation that supports qualifying organizations with charitable grants. Since its founding in 1969, the foundation has focused its giving on the areas of arts and culture, community improvement, education, and human rights.
Before you make a significant investment in drafting a compelling proposal to the Rock Foundation, you should determine whether your project aligns with the foundation’s giving priorities.
So how do you do that? Don’t worry! As we walk through this article, we will show you some valuable insights into the Rock Foundation and their giving trends. We will also ask you to score yourself on several criteria that will help you make a final determination about whether the Rock Foundation is a good-fit funder for your organization. This will ensure you are focusing your time only on high-ROI opportunities.
Let’s get started!
Rock Foundation: Mission and Background
The Rock Foundation does not have a significant online presence. However, we can infer some information on their mission, background, and giving priorities based on past funding trends and NTEE code data. We will dive into this in more detail in a later section of the article—but here are the basics.
Education is the category that is most frequently supported by the foundation, which includes charter schools, parent/teacher groups, K-12 education, and research institutes.
The foundation also allocates a significant amount of funding to projects in the arts, culture & humanities, including the theater, ballet, advocacy groups, and public policy research.
Based on this information, you will score yourself on how well your organization or project aligns with the Rock Foundation’s giving priorities.
Criterion #1: Add a score in the range of 1-3 to indicate how closely your nonprofit's mission aligns with the Rock Foundation.
Add this when there is little to no understanding of the alignment between you and the Rock Foundation
Add this when there is a distant alignment between you and the Rock Foundation - e.g. Foundation supports a broader funding category.
Add this where there is an evident close alignment between you and the Rock Foundation.
Rock Foundation: Interesting Funder Insights
You can discover if the Rock Foundation is a good-fit funder for your organization by reviewing some key data from the foundation’s 990 forms.
However, 990 forms can be difficult to sift through if you aren’t familiar with their content and layout. Here’s where Instrumentl can help!
Instrumentl analyzes and breaks down the data from funders’ 990 forms and displays it in easy-to-read graphs and charts. The insights provided by Instrumentl’s 990 tool can help you determine if your project is a good fit for the funder.
Why is it important to determine fit? So that you are focusing your energy only on opportunities with a high-ROI.
Keep reading to learn the three key things that Instrumentl’s 990 tool can show you to help you determine if applying to the Rock Foundation is worth your time and energy.
#1 General Giving Trends
The first thing you should look at is the foundation’s total giving history. Past giving is the best indicator of future giving!
Looking at the above bar graph, you can see that the Rock Foundation’s total giving amount has fluctuated over the last 4 years. In 2017, the foundation awarded more than $2.5 million in grants. However, that amount has decreased 17.4% since 2018, with only $1.5 million awarded in 2020.
Since the Rock Foundation’s giving is on a downward-sloping trend, we are going to ask you to subtract points from your score.
Criterion #2: Deduct 0.5 points from your funder score to reflect the Rock Foundation’s negative giving trend for the last 3 years.
Add this since the Rock Foundation has had a decreasing giving trend for the last 3 years.
Total giving isn’t the only data point we need to look at, however. Let’s also consider the number of grants that the Rock Foundation awards each year.
As you can see in the above bar graph, the total number of grants also declined from 2019 to 2020. This should be considered in context with the overall giving trend for the Rock Foundation. Combined, these two data points give us valuable insight into the size of the grants that are being awarded by the Rock Foundation.
Since the number of grants has decreased along with total giving, we can infer that grant size is likely not decreasing by too much, but that the foundation is simply awarding fewer grants.
Looking at the change in average grant size can help us confirm this information. The below graph shows you the Rock Foundation’s average grant award over the last several years.
In 2018, the average grant award was $14,049. In 2019, it increased to nearly $16,000. But in 2020, it dropped to just $11,363. Overall, that’s a 7.5% reduction in the average grant amount. Combined with the decline in total giving and number of grants, we can infer that the Rock Foundation’s giving is on a steady decline.
Criterion #3: Deduct 1 point from your funder score to reflect the decrease in the average grant amount given by Rock Foundation’s for the past 3 years.
Add this when the average grant amount awarded by the Rock Foundation has decreased for the past 3 years.
#2 Funding by NTEE Codes
NTEE code data is by far the most important piece of information that you will come across when you are evaluating a funder.
Most funders tend to unequally split their budget between funding purposes; analyzing this data will provide you with valuable insight about whether your ask aligns with how the foundation has awarded funds in the past.
As you can see in the above table, “Education” is the category that receives the highest amount of funding from the Rock Foundation. A total of 74 grants have been awarded in this category, totaling $2.41 million in funding in that category.
You can see that “Employment” has the highest average grant award of $50,000, with “Community Improvement & Capacity Building” coming in second at $25,000.
This information is helpful! You can determine if your project falls into any of these categories, see how many grants were awarded in each category, and even see the average grant amount. Then you can decide if those numbers align with your needs.
It’s also important to take a deeper dive into each category and subcategory.
For example, when you look at the subcategories listed under “Education”, you can see that although the average grant amount is listed as $5,000, the actual award amounts go up to $275,000 for the subcategory “Parent & Teacher Groups”. That’s quite a difference.
Remember—you can only find this information using Instrumentl. Create your free 14-day account today to discover more NTEE subcategories and their funding amounts.
Criterion #4: Add a score in the range of 0-2 to your funder score to indicate whether the Rock Foundation’s funding for your niche is what you desire.
Add this when the Rock Foundation's funding for your niche lies below your desired amount.
Add this when the Rock Foundation's funding for your niche is around your desired amount.
Add this when the Rock Foundation's funding for your niche is greater than your desired amount.
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#3 Openness to New Grantees and Their Average Grant Amounts
It is also important to determine the Rock Foundation’s openness to new grantees and their average grant amounts.
This information will be useful in helping you decide if creating a proposal is a good use of your time. While there is no “magic number”, we’ve found that when a funder has a 40%-60% ratio of new vs. repeat grantees, that is a good indicator for success.
So, how do you figure this out? It’s simple! Instrumentl can help you.
In the bar graph above, you can see that over the last 3 years, the Rock Foundation has awarded only 20% of their grants to new grantees. This means that 80% of their grants are going to repeat grantees—not a great indicator that your proposal will be successful if you’re a new applicant!
Let’s also look at the average grant amount for new and repeat grantees. Check out the table below.
You can see that the average grant amount for new grantees is $18,400, while the average grant amount for repeat grantees is just $10,406. This could be good news in that it indicates that the Rock Foundation might be willing to invest more in new grantees versus those that they have funded in the past.
Criterion #5: If you are a new grantee, add Rock Foundation’s proportion of giving to new grantees to your funder score.
If you are a repeat grantee, add Rock Foundation’s proportion of giving to repeat grantees to your funder score.
Add this when you are a new grantee for the Rock Foundation.
Add this when you are a repeat grantee for the Rock Foundation.
Bonus Tip: Geographic Distribution of Past Grantees
We have a bonus tip for you! Many funders concentrate their giving to specific states or regions. While this information needs to be considered in context with all of the other factors we’ve discussed, it is still an important piece of data to consider.
Looking at the map above, you can see where the Rock Foundation has historically focused their grant funding.
California is the most heavily represented state, with 469 grants awarded.
States like Washington, Oregon, Texas, Pennsylvania and New York are the next most-represented states, with anywhere from 2 to 39 grants awarded.
States in white have not been historically represented, and have never been funded by the Rock Foundation. These include North & South Dakota, Florida, and Nevada.
Remember—location is only one factor to consider among many different variables.
Criterion #6: Add a score in the range of 0-3 to your funder score to indicate whether or not your organization’s state has been historically represented.
Add this when your state isn't historically represented - shaded in white - among past grantees.
Add this when your state is sparsely represented - shaded in light purple - among past grantees.
Add this when your state is represented more heavily - shaded in darker purple - among past grantees.
Add this when your state is represented most heavily - shaded in darkest purple - among past grantees.
The Rock Foundation: Key People and Past Grantees
By now, you should be feeling pretty confident in your assessment of whether or not the Rock Foundation is a good-fit funder for your organization.
If the answer is “yes!”, that’s great! We are going to give you two action items to add to your to-do list before you begin drafting a proposal to the foundation.
If the answer is “nope!”, don’t stress. We’re going to give you a list of similar funders that may be a better fit for your project.
But first, the action items!.
Get in Touch with the Rock Foundation’s Key People
It’s really important to catch the eye of the decision-makers at the Rock Foundation before you submit a proposal.
If you don’t have an existing connection at the foundation, it might be overwhelming trying to figure out how to get on their radar. After all, you can’t approach just anyone.
This is where Instrumentl can help! Instrumentl’s “Key People” report will show you the Rock Foundation’s employees and their job titles, so that you can target your outreach appropriately.
You might choose to reach out to these individuals via email or phone, or even send them an invite on LinkedIn. Great! You could also invite them to a community event to show off your organization’s work, or mail them a customized gift with your organization’s logo. However you approach your outreach, Instrumentl will make sure that you are connecting with the right people.
Contact the Rock Foundation’s Past Grantees
There is no one better qualified to give you advice on the nitty-gritty details of getting funded by the Rock Foundation than their past grantees.
Instrumentl will show you a list of all the organizations that have previously received funding from the foundation so you can determine who to reach out to. You might choose an organization that received a funding amount similar to what you need for your project. Or, you might choose a nonprofit with a project that is in the same category as yours.
Either way, previously-funded organizations can provide you with useful advice about how to catch the eye of the foundation.
Foundations Similar to Rock Foundation
If you’ve decided that the Rock Foundation isn’t a good fit for your organization, don’t stress. Here’s a list of foundations that are similar, but may end up being a better fit for you.
California Community Foundation
Lucille Packard Foundation for Children’s Health
The Annenberg Foundation
THe San Francisco Foundation
The James Irvine Foundation
Craig H. Neilsen Foundation
California HealthCare Foundation
Sobrato Family Foundation
Wrapping Up: Rock Foundation and You
By now, you should be feeling pretty confident about whether the Rock Foundation is a good fit for you. But just to be sure, let’s tally up your scores from the various criteria throughout this article.
Once you have a total, you’ll be able to make a final determination about whether this foundation is a good-fit funder. Please remember to round your score to the nearest 10th!
8.5 - 11 Great fit
3.8 - 7.8 - Good fit
0.8 - Bad fit
It is so important to evaluate funder fit before you spend your valuable time and energy applying for a grant. 990 data can reveal so many valuable insights about a funder—and Instrumentl can help make this information so simple and easy-to-understand.
On average, Instrumentl saves folks three hours a week, and increases grant application output by 78% within one year! This data is compelling.
Don’t forget—you can explore even more foundations and their 990 data by creating your free 14-day Instrumentl account today. This will help ensure that you are only spending time on high-ROI opportunities!
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