Many years ago, when I was a “younger” professional, I attended a training session on how to write grants. The speaker shared some opening tips, and one of the key points that has stayed with me is to know your funder.
So, how do you go about knowing a potential funder? Grant seeking, like fundraising in general, is often more successful when there is a relationship. Of course, many funders are inundated with requests and do not have the capacity or desire to hear from a multitude of thirsty grant-seekers, each with the most worthwhile project ever in existence. Here are three important points to consider before you attempt to contact a funder.
First, learn all you can about the funder. Conduct research to determine if they are a good fit with your program or project.
- Review the funder’s website.
- Refer to their tax return to see who they have funded previously (GuideStar is free and easy to navigate).
- Determine how much they typically fund.
- Ask yourself, will our organization help this funder meet their philanthropic goals?
- Find out who is on their board of directors.
- Search for articles online or links that can provide useful information.
- Set up Google alerts to stay informed of any press releases or announcements.
- Find out if anyone on the board of your organization knows anyone on the funder’s board. If so, would they be willing to open the door for you?
Second, if you do not find any indication in your research that contact is unwelcome, reach out to the funder. If you successfully scheduled a call or meeting:
- Send a short paragraph or an “elevator speech” succinctly describing who you are.
- Carefully review the funder’s application or RFP (if available) prior to the call.
- Be prepared with a list of relevant questions from your research.
- Let the funder do the talking. The goal is to determine how your organization’s and the funder’s missions align.
- While being professional, it is always great to make a personal connection asking the contact person about themselves. Find common ground that you can build on.
- End the call with a short pitch for your program or project and ask for input on the possible request, the suggested amount, the reporting and recognition.
- Invite the funder to visit your organization or schedule a virtual tour.
Finally, follow-up with an email or note thanking them for the call. If an application is submitted, check-in to ask if there are any questions or additional information needed. If there is a denial, always ask for feedback and develop a plan for next steps.
Grant seeking is hard and rewarding work but knowing your funder and building a relationship is often at the core of all successful fundraising!