Sunday, March 02, 2008

Top Ten Ways to Find a Grant Donor Who Will Give to Your Nonprofit

10. Have done your homework - whatever your organization knows it needs grant money for (e.g. new program, ten new wheelchairs, a capital campaign (new building), etc.) be sure to have planned out: the timeline, staff, action items, expected results, research the target audience, understand what the real need in the community is that your new item/program is addressing, etc.

9. Research foundations, corporations, etc. who give grants. Do not print a list of foundations who operate near your town and decide the organizations on the list are who you're nonprofit is applying to for grants. Create a list of foundations who:

Your organization should begin the grant application process by submitting Letters of Inquiry (LOI's) (or initially approach the potential donor how they prefer to be approached, according to their giving guidelines), to the grant donors who meet all three criteria, above.

8. Write an honest, thorough, succinct, easy to read grant proposal and tailor an original (master template) according to each foundation's guidelines' directions. All foundations are different from one another. One foundation will want you to include the list of your organization's Board of Directors, and another won't. They all require different things - read each foundation's giving guidelines.

7. Get organized. Upon receiving responses (and some are always 'we are sorry but...' and 'please go ahead and apply') from foundations to your initial contact; plan out when each application that your organization has been invited to submit is due, or when you want to have it 100% completed by (to get it into the mail, to arrive on time).

6. Prepare and educate any executive director and board members who may meet with foundation (or grant donor) representatives. Sometimes grant donors want to see a site location (when considering giving to a capital campaign, for instance), or interview organization leaders to get a feel for the organization's culture, management style, openness, etc. Get each of your organization's leaders information on the foundation, on the grant that you're applying for, and help them with talking points. They should speak honestly from the heart about why they're with your organization, answer all questions, remain open. No executive director or board member should expect to do a 'perfect' interview. Rather, they are the 'cherry on the sundae' to the organization's reputation, successes, etc. and the grant application. They should try to relax and enjoy the talk, if they can; when a potential donor wants to meet with your organization - it's encouraging and a good sign!

5. Be grateful for the foundations who decline your application. When you receive a grant it's a great feeling. The reason why I say 'be grateful for the declines, too' is that they remain a potential grant donor to your organization now, just as they were when you applied. During your foundation research (prospecting) you determined that they are. So, give it a couple of days and call their program manager (if the foundation accepts calls - look in their giving guidelines to find out) and say 'thank you for reviewing our application, we plan on applying during the next giving cycle that we're allowed to (some foundations only allow an application a year, others don't care how often you apply), could you let me know why our application was not granted or give me some suggestions?' It's OK to do this. It allows you to understand better what they want and at the very least, they've read what your organization does. You always want potential donors to know about your organization and what it does. You've done this much. Apply again.

4. Manage any grant that your group receives. It's a donation from a potential future donor to your organization. Do not spend the grant on anything other than what you stated it would be spent on, in the proposal. Create a way to track the program, project, items, etc. that you received the grant for. Provide clients with a survey asking about the program. Track who receives a new wheelchair, ask the owner for feedback on it - gather stats on the people benefiting from the grant support. Whether the donor asks for it or not, provide the grant donor with an end of grant report (state what their money was spent on, what it helped to achieve, state how you know these data points, and say 'thank you').

3. Communicate with grant donors. If something 'bad' happens (e.g. major funding for the program falls through, the site that you were going to build your org's new building got bought from under your organization, etc.) call up the foundation and tell them. Be proactive, be forthright, and remember that you're trying to get a donation now but you want a good relationship with any potential donor and to do that - you must be honest. You don't want them to find out about the mishap through another source. Besides, I've literally heard more than once, that projects or programs that were in jeopardy were saved by the potential grant donor because they believed in the new program/project so much. They knew that the need existed in our community.

2. Do not send grant donors things like newsletters, annual appeal letters, etc. after they've given to your organization. They don't need extra mail. Keep a relationship up with their program manager but don't annoy them. Develop the donor to give again in the future.

1. Give your organization enough time to be successful. Grant writing is not a quick fix fundraising method. Be sure to plan ahead. Be sure to plan out the timeline. Give yourself at least three months to research and write; and give the foundation 3 - 6 months to decide whether they'll give the grant or not. Expect these time lines. They're pretty common.


saypei71 said...

hey there!! good to read ur comments on donor funding!! made me realize how unprepared i was!! my name is evans saypei and i live in kenya.i would love info on how i can raise funds to educate kids from disadvantaged families in my community. can u gimme info on that/?thanx once again on ur good work!!

Arlene M. Spencer said...

I'm so glad that I've helped you understand grants a bit better. Thank you for reading and posting such a kind comment.

In Kenya, I would recommend that you approach whomever your local government Minister is. Make contact with them, learn what concerns them about your community, and get organized before you meet. Know what you want to do (education, but what kind, when), for whom (the children but what age groups), and explain why the need should be met. He or she knows the need exists, but make the need and your solution compelling. Ask who they know that might fund your project idea and research them. You could also research which NGO's are providing education in Kenya and call them and ask to speak to their education program manager. Explain what you're trying to do, why, and where and ask them questions. It's a great way to get the ball rolling on your idea.

I hope that this helps!

Good luck in your important endeavor!

Anonymous said...

Hello there, quite a good info on fund rising. Iam looking for grant seeking for urban communication on public Health in india. Can you help me out whom to approach?



Arlene M. Spencer said...

Hello! Thank you for reading and for commenting.

In response to your question, I'd read my respons to Evans, above your comment.

It is good to network within your community, and to not duplicate others' efforts, but to also create alliances with government agencies or NGO's doing similar work to what you want to do. Contact your local government representative and tell them your idea and ask them if they can recommend resources available to you. Also, look into which nonprofits and Non Government Organizations (NGO's) are in your region doing similar work, contact their programs people, and tell them your idea. Ask if they can suggest resources. Learn, as you are, about nonprofit fundraising, operations, management, and modern best practices. Research The Foundation Center's website (NY)at and as it seems that you are very good at English (!), if you read it well, I recommend each and all of Jossey Bass Publishing's Non Profit books. They are at

I wish you the very best in your important endeavor for Indian Public Health!


Katie Beth said...

Thank you for your information regarding grant donors. I started a non-profit last year working with inner city kids in Detroit, providing performing and visual art classes and summer camps. I have had such a hard time finding money to support the program. I'll work on the outline you gave and hopefully see some results!

Anonymous said...

Hallo there!
Im David! and im a kenyan aged 26yrs old. I have been searching ways for reaching grant donors quit long but today im happy today i come across your page. We have a self help group whose members are total orphans and their dream is to have their own place to call home. Im the chairperson to the group and it has 30 members. Some are even less than 20yrs and they never went on with their education due to lack of school fees. Anyway let me stop there and hope to hear from you soon. My email address is

Arlene M. Spencer said...

Hello and thank you for reading, for commenting, and for all of your important work in Kenya. I apologize that it has taken me this long to respond to you. I urge you to research free (but reputable) resources (such as the ones I suggest in my responses to the comments above, on this post) and in this blog (read the pertinent blog posts in my How To and Start Up "Label"s to the lower right on this web page). Also, check out the resources I suggest on this web page, in the middle right hand side. As you are getting grant writing going, you are learning a new fundraising method so read, ask other successful nonprofits in your region what their successful experiences have been raising grants, and learn more. I wish you luck in your work! Best, Arlene