Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Grantmaker Research

Sometimes I get lists from clients that were obviously compiled from some website like the Foundation Center. Not too long ago I actually got a list printed directly from that website of over 100 "youth-oriented" foundations from a prospective client.
I have a subscription to that resource and several more just like it.  If grantor research was that easy, no one would need professional funding consultants and/or grant writers. The reality is, that list is simply a baby step in finding prospective funding.

There are many steps that go into approaching and qualifying a viable funding partner. Does the grantmaker ever support NPOs in your geographical area? What do they mean when they say they make grants nationally?  What makes them choose one nonprofit over another? Does their controlling philosophy match yours? Are you looking for a one-shot funding source, or is a continuing relationship important? What other nonprofit or ideological themes do their individual board members support away from that particular foundation?

There are dozens of things that can influence acceptance of a grant application. Not too long ago, I researched a large family foundation in the eastern U.S. for an Idaho client. I felt that the client's program might fit in with the foundation's underlying interests, but according to their public face, it looked like a stretch.

I literally built a profile for the board members and the history of their involvement in Idaho.  And I mean every consequential board member, all 22 of them. In the end, I was able to help the client craft a customized proposal that stayed true to the client's mission, but still appealed personally to the foundation's board members. This is the first three sentences of the acceptance letter from that foundation:

"Thank you for making our board aware of your program. We have been interested in this type of highly targeted program for many years. Normally, the program would not fit our giving parameters, but we are making an exception due to our personal interest in (the program). We are pleased to inform you that we are funding (the specific area of the program) in the amount of $10,000 for each of the next three years."

This was a highly targeted, well documented and very personal appeal to the specific interests of three of the board members as evidenced by their personal participation in similar projects. I spent almost a month, off and on doing that.

Very large nonprofits may have the resources to do that type of in-depth relationship building, but often they rely on actual personal contacts.  They know the board members they are trying to court. They go to dinner with them, attend the same functions, and often the actual application is simply a formality.

If you don't rub elbows on a personal basis with your target funding source, consider hiring out the research, and acting on it with something more than stale boilerplate copy. It could be profitable.   

No comments:

Post a Comment