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This one easy thing will transform your grant seeking

Updated: Jun 11

Tldr: pick up the phone

Most grant professionals I know (including myself) are introverts. We don’t hate people, it just takes more energy for us to interact with them. Being alone is how we recharge. 

As a result, we often sabotage our own work by neglecting the ONE EASY THING that can improve our success: building relationships with our grantors.

There’s no doubt about it: Having a relationship with a funder is the best way to get funding from them. 

A funder doesn’t have to be your best friend. You don’t need to dog sit for them or bring them cookies. 

You just need to talk to them. 

Here are some steps you can take TODAY to start making those connections with funders.

  1. Do your research. A world of information about that funder is at your fingertips! 

  2. Check out their 990 on Guidestar or the IRS database. You can find a wealth of knowledge there - primarily who the main people involved are.

  3. If they have a website, take a look -- and read it!

  4. Is the organization on social media? Which organizations are they connected with?

  5. Who are the PEOPLE involved in the organization? 

  6. Are they on social media? What are their interests? Look them up on LinkedIn - do you have any people in common?

  7. Make some casual connections.

  8. If the organization is on social media, follow them both personally and as your organization. 

  9. Do more than just follow them. Respond to their posts, repost their information on your own page (both personally and as the organization), invite them to your page.

  10. Send them a copy of your annual report or other materials. Even if they aren’t funding you, they likely want to know what’s going on in their community.

  11. If you are at an event and notice a representative of that funder is also there, find a way to introduce yourself to them. (Confession: this is really hard for me - I have to force myself to do it.)

  12. If possible, do these things over a few weeks or months before you start contacting them. 

  13. Be a sleuth

  14. Like Disney says, “It’s a small world after all.” Is there someone you know who is already connected with someone at the organization? If so, ask them for an introduction email.  They might say no, but they usually don’t mind if you ask (as long as you do it the right way)

  15. Do you have shared interests? Maybe the foundation grant manager loves to bowl. You love to bowl - instant connection! Keep that information somewhere so you will remember it. 

  16. Prepare to make the phone call.

  17. Collect your data and review it before you call.

  18. Do NOT ask questions that are already answered on the website. It is okay to confirm information but don’t ask any question they can answer with, “It’s on our website.” 

  19. Be ready to answer THEIR questions.

  20. Make sure you know your organization’s leaders, programs, outcomes, etc.

  21. Know your organization’s website. They are likely pulling it up on their computer while they are talking to you. 

  22. Know your organization’s 990. They are probably looking at that too.

  23. Have a list of questions - maybe even a script - on hand before you call. Here are suggestions you can edit to fit your organization:

  24. “I notice on the website you prioritize education. I work with an after-school program for children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Is an after-school model something your organization has an interest in?”

  25. “Your deadline is November 3 each year, right? Will you accept applications at any time of the year?” 

  26. “How often do the trustees meet?”

  27. “Does the foundation have any funding preferences? Program versus operating, etc.?” 

  28. Practice. You don’t want to SOUND like you are reading a script. A coworker or friend may be willing to let you practice with them.

  29. Pick up the phone and make the call! You’ve done enough research that you should feel like you already know them a bit.

  30. Take notes or record the conversation to make sure you don’t miss anything. 

  31. Follow up with a thank you email or handwritten note. This shows that you follow through on things! 



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