When you look at the common reasons foundations give for not taking applications, they kind of fall apart. At the end of the day, it really just comes down to a choice — a barrier intentionally placed between tax-subsidized wealth, and the public that it’s legally required to benefit.

"We’re too small."

This is probably the most common reason that foundations don’t accept applications, as many are, indeed, small. But even small foundations can offer a mechanism that allows people to throw their hats into the ring.

For a corner case, though, let’s imagine a family affair that supports just a couple of causes and has zero staff.

Say a family foundation in Smallville gives to the Smallville Botanical Garden and the Smallville Art Museum every year. Doesn’t accept proposals. My guess is, people still call and write with all kinds of random asks. What if they took just a small amount of the budget and earmarked it for new applicants, only in Smallville, working in art and outdoor recreation, starting with an easy four-question form? My guess is, that’s totally manageable, and would likely draw exciting and relevant projects.

The point is, being approachable doesn’t mean foundations have to turn all of their giving into a free-for-all. Especially with online tools, there are ways to responsibly channel cold proposals that won’t prompt an avalanche of paperwork. Anyone who's ever sorted through a big pile of electronic inquiries — say, applicants for an open position — knows it's not really that hard to separate the wheat from the chaff or to send off polite mass rejections.

Read the full article about accepting grant proposals for foundations small and large by Tate Williams at ncfp.org.