Steps to grant success: a series, Part 3

The first contact with a new funder

You’ve done your research and found the perfect prospect for your non-profit’s next grant application. At a minimum, you have:

  • reviewed the funder’s 990 thoroughly
    • you know their giving guidelines, what organizations they’ve awarded to most recently and in what amounts, and that they accept applications;
  • reviewed their website carefully
    • you know their giving priorities, the application format they prefer, their staffing set-up and board member names, and who your primary point of contact should be;
  • checked for a prior relationship
    • cross-checked with your organization’s board to assess if there exists a relationship with someone on the foundation’s board

The next step? Call or write! Yes! It is the first step in building a relationship, which will go a long way to grant success. Polish off your elevator speech: have a concise description of your agency and program at the ready. Practice, and be prepared to either leave a brief but compelling voicemail message, or speak with a live person. If no phone contact is advised, or there is no phone number, send an email.

The point, or goal, of the first outreach is to establish a connection, verify there is a mission match, and validate your research into application format and appropriate ask amount. It looks a little like a Mad Libs, but here’s a sample script of what your call or email could sound/look like:

Hello, this is your name with your agency. We are the largest/oldest/most highly regarded nonprofit provider of your agency’s service in geographic region. I’m calling to see if a proposal from our organization would be welcomed by the ____ Foundation. Do you have a few moments?

Your agency’s mission is to _______. We’ve provided _______ for over ### of your constituents to ensure _______.  The program I believe aligns most closely with the ____ Foundation is our _____.

[Very little on the “how,” more on the impact on the people you serve.  Prepare your script in advance so it is as brief as possible]

If there is a fit: LISTEN! Learn what’s important to them and what would form a proposal that would answer the same need they hope to fill, and is focused on their priorities. Verify their preferred method of delivery. Double check timing/deadlines. Ask the appropriate ask amount for a first time grant seeker.

If the program is not aligned: be prepared to pitch another program that would be a better fit.

If no natural alignment seems to come out of your conversation: say

Thank you for your time. I am so glad I called and you had a chance to talk with me. I wish you the best!”

The next installment of Steps to grant success will cover crafting a compelling LOI (Letter of Intent).

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