Picking up the phone to call a new funder is the perfect example of a grant professional’s expertise in efficient communication. The following tips will help you get to the bottom of whether or not a funder will work for your program in less than ten minutes.
Countless foundations do not have websites. While their 990s can be easily viewed using Guidestar or Foundation Directory Online’s 990 Finder, that doesn’t always give you the information you need to fully determine if their giving initiatives align with your program. In those instances, it is best to directly call the foundation office.
Calling a potential funder is very different than calling a potential donor. The primary purpose of contacting a funder is to collect information, not pitch a program. The following are some important tips to keep in mind that will help you get the information you need and establish a positive relationship with the foundation office.
Know what information you need before you pick up the phone!
You should have at least a working knowledge of the funder before you call. If not, your phone call could simply ask “What are your giving priorities?” and “What is your application process?”
In most cases, you’re trying to fill in the gaps—what is their application process, do they fund salaries, what are their reporting requirements, do they provide funding for a certain population? Know what information gaps you need filled so the conversation is productive.
This is not a pitch!
The funder is not a donor! The funder is a potential investor in your program. Their interest does not rely solely on their emotional connection to your mission, but on whether or not it aligns with their initiatives. There is no need to give “the pitch.” I can always tell the difference between a development director and a grant writer. The development director will spend ten minutes talking about the history of the organization, the history of the program, the wonderful benefits to the individuals they serve, maybe an adorable anecdote about a puppy or a child. A grant writer will simply state their program, how it aligns with their initiatives, ask if the funder supports that activity/group, and say thanks if they say no. Remember, we are all busy. Don’t waste their time, or yours.
If they do fund projects like your initiative and seem interested in your program, see if you can set up a meeting between their president or executive director and someone from your organization. You will be amazed how many times they will say yes!
Be polite and follow up!
It doesn’t matter if you have the assistant to the assistant or Bill Gates himself on the phone, be polite to everybody; you never know who functions as the gatekeeper or decision-maker, especially at some smaller family foundations.
Follow up with the phone call, even if the foundation doesn’t fund your initiative or accept unsolicited applications. Ask if you can provide them with some information on the problem in your community that your program addresses. Keep their contact information on file and try and connect with them 2 to 3 times a year by providing a brief update on your organization’s accomplishments or emerging trends in the field. In some instances, a foundation may not even know that a certain problem exists in the community, and your expertise could affect their giving priorities and, ultimately, get you another loyal funder.
Don’t forget to share your journey on the 30 Day Grant Readiness Challenge by using the hashtag #grantreadiness on your posts and updates on social media. We would love to hear if you are inspired to pick up the phone and call a new funder today!
Did you miss the launch of the 30 Day Grant Readiness Challenge? It isn’t too late for you to start! You can sign up at any point and it will start you back on Day 1!