Be a smart detective. Find out who is doing what. Find out why they’re funding what they’re funding. And then put yourself in that spotlight. Collaborative efforts are sometimes advisable and attractive to funders so consider whether collaboration can move your mission forward.
Check such directories as the Foundation Center (FoundationCenter.org) and study, study, study.
- Look up agencies similar in cause to yours and see who is funding them. Then explore those granting sources. (For example if you serve special needs kids look up schools for special kids, schools for kids with autism, therapy programs, etc. If you find the XYZ Foundation and the ABC Friends foundations consistently fund in this cause area then you have a great piece of information on where to target your proposals.)
- Find out what their submission guidelines are (deadlines, length, information they want, etc.…)
- Determine if they offer any training on filling out the application and be there with bells on.
- In our above example you can try asking the foundations if you can have fifteen minutes of their time and make a presentation.
- Put together a brief presentation (using a small flip chart that can sit on a desk-or a power point if you can set it up and get it going in a flash avoiding keeping them waiting while you fiddle around) with just a few statistics and photos.
- Make certain you have some heart-touching real-life stories ready to share.
- You MUST have a board member with you as this reinforces the strength of your organization and your nonprofit nature. If the paid staff just go and present it can appear that they want money primarily to fund their salaries —a death knell in fundraising.
- One of the key points to make is that you will USE THEIR MONEY WISELY AND EXACTLY AS YOU SAY YOU WILL.
- The other option to visiting them is to ask them to visit you. Of course, if they agree, you must have something for them to see—like seals being treated, kids in therapy, homeless folks receiving new clothes, etc.
- Forget to do your homework. You must know their giving priorities and history. If they only fund pet projects of their board, spend your time in recruiting one of their board members or move on to some other funding source.
- Forget that the people on these granting boards are people. Forge people to people relationships. If, for example, you know one of the directors of a group you’ve been soliciting is a bicycle enthusiast and you see an article about new seats or an event, etc., send it to him with a brief, friendly but professional note. “Saw this—my brother has one—thought of you… Jeremy.”
- Finally, don’t give up. Never lose sight of your mission and the means to your end will come to you.
This is the third guest post in a three part series by Patricia Gilbers. Patricia has co-founded and co-directed a non profit agency. Patricia now consults for nonprofits specializing in start ups and grant request writing. Patricia also writes novels, short stories, and screen plays. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.