Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Leadership's Role In Seeking Grants

Over and over again I have heard different foundation's program managers say that the easiest way to get their attention (besides a concise, clear, honest, and complete grant proposal application) is to talk with them.

One of the most prolific but harmful assumptions is that the success of acquiring grants is up to the grant writer.

A good grant writer is of course a key part of a successful grant program, but there are more members of the team than just the grant writer (and more jobs to be done than just prospecting and applying for grants).

The volunteer leadership, the Board of Directors and Board of Trustees, must be telling their colleagues, friends, and family about their volunteer work with your organization, and most importantly why they're working for your specific organization. This can be a two minute 'elevator speech' that is easily rattled off, but clear and informative. (An elevator speech is an description you'd give to someone who asks 'who do you work for?' in the time it might take an elevator to go more than a few floors; you probably already have one). If your volunteers tell folks about your org and speak from their hearts about why they're volunteering with you - they've done a lot of their job!

The staff leadership needs to be in the community regularly talking with corporate, foundation, private, government, and other representatives (that are key to the community building for their business or organization). Leadership staff should also have a clear but informative elevator pitch (again, from the heart and short and sweet).

Contacts are made this way (and need to be recorded in an organized fashion, and followed up with), and it gives people in your local community an opportunity not to just hear about your org's good work, but more importantly to ask you questions. Possibly this may get someone new involved or your org may get a new donor!

Marketing, outreach work, working with other non profits, getting involved in reputible research, and other methods are all also helpful in not just raising grant donations, but in your organization's fundraising.

The key is to be out in the community so that people hear about your organization and actually come to know it and its work! This is not an optional component to fundraising, but an important variable in your organization's success in fundraising.

Maybe you're saying, 'Arlene, I hate schmoozing' or 'I'll feel like a salesman'. Remember; no one is comfortable making pitches, or trying to sell anyone. The key is to just speak from your heart! Say why you work or volunteer for your organization in the way that you want to and that IS good enough. It works better because people respond to enthusiasm and sincerity.

Get out there and good luck!


Unknown said...

Most grants are domain specific. How do I find grants for an innovative organization whose project is interrelated to the economy and the environment with impact in the social realm of community?

Arlene M. Spencer said...

Patricia Anne,
Hello and thanks for reading and commenting with your question.

Use a good grant search tools such as The Foundation Center's Foundation Search (there are free editions of their entire searchable database at various public libraries around the country - check yours' to see if your library has it). In using a good up to date grants database, you could search for many different specifics. You could search for "environment", "natural resources", etc. The devil is in the details; you're going to have to go over each of the foundations who give to the cause that your organization is serving. You need to be clear about what that is before prospecting (searching for potential grant funders). The impact is something you'll express in your grant proposal. Search for organizations looking for projects that will serve the environment or economics. Having an innovative project with impact is how to get funding! This is great.

Be sure to read my posts under the "prospecting", "foundations", etc. tags to understand where to begin.

Good luck,