Sunday, August 16, 2009

If A Grant Donor Allows Phone Calls, Call Each Donor Your Agency Is Applying for a Grant From

If the grant donors that your organization has researched and determined would be likely grant donors to your group state in their giving guidelines that they welcome phone calls - take the opportunity to call them before submitting your grant application as a step in the grant application process for that particular grant donor.

Each grant donor is different. Some allow or even prefer if organizations who are going to apply to them call first. Others do not want any phone calls. Make sure that for each organization that your agency is going to apply to, you have researched each grant donor's giving guidelines and you know each grant application recipient's preferences, requirements to apply, and other pertinent application process details.

Before you apply for a grant, plan to call the grant donor (again - only if they allow phone calls). Take time, before calling, to prepare. Never feel, when speaking to any potential donor, like you must memorize anything or like 'if I don't get this "right" I'm going to mess up our getting this grant'. That is simply not true and you'll want to practice replacing catastrophic thinking (or worry) like that with self-supporting talk such as 'this is simply a phone call to initiate an application process and the grant donor welcomes these - so they've conduct thousands of them and understand the pressure a nonprofit is under when applying for a grant' because it's true and they do. Take any pressure off of yourself (and your agency) that you can. How? Tell yourself some truths that clarify how this process really goes. When a nonprofit applies for a grant from any grant donor - that grant donor knows that it's going to support the work that is being done in the community as best it can because it wants to. The grant donor also regrets (sincerely) that it can't offer more funds to more nonprofits but as a grant donor it has likely determined how to best help the community (in the interest of also helping to provide real positive results in our communities via the nonprofits they grant to). When they decline a grant request, that grant applicant nonprofit should phone (after receiving word that their app was declined if the donor allows phone calls) and politely and in an open fashion call the grant donor and ask if there are any improvements or changes that you could make to your application to improve your agency's chances in receiving a grant. Then make those changes are made to the declined grant application, and then apply again when the grant donor allows nonprofits whose applications have been declined to reapply again next.

To prepare with a phone call with a grant donor - be sure that you know what your agency is applying for. Be sure to know what program or project your nonprofit wants funding from this particular donor for. Also be sure that you know what amount of money you'll be requesting. Have some other details about the project jotted down on note paper in front of you during the call such as any community partners your agency is going to provide this program with, what the overhead costs are, who will be served (demographics), who will provide the program (staff and their credentials and experience), what the time line of the project is, what the anticipated outcomes will be, and what the evaluation method and plan is, etc. You won't always be asked for any or all of these details but you'll be asked for some of them and it's good to have it handy right in front of you during the call so that you sound organized and knowledgeable and your agency looks like it's thought out its program, knows the details, and is professional and prepared. Leave a good impression as best you can. When you call, state your organization's name, your name and job title, and explain that you're wanting to have a conversation with someone there about a pending grant application. If your organization has received any kind of support from the grant donor organization in the past, have that information handy too. Be sure to let them know that on the phone. Have a few questions prepared with them such as are any of their (the grant donor's) board members have a personal interest in the kind of work that your agency does or is proposing to do in the grant application. If there is, ask if the person who your are speaking with will let them know that your agency is doing X program or Y work in the community and is going to apply for a grant on (and give the date that you will submit your application). If that board member is passionate about what your organization is doing or going to do and they are made aware of your application coming soon - they can watch for it and even become an advocate for the application as it moves through their grant application review process. Also ask if there is anything not listed in their giving guidelines that the people who review the grant applications like or prefer about the application, itself. If they share any tips with you - take advantage of the insider information and follow through and do what they suggest.

It is imperative that you take good notes as you conduct the phone conversation. Be sure to jot down the date and time that you phoned, that you conducted the phone call, note who you spoke with (and if it's more than one person - note whom), and note everything that you share with them about your agency and the proposed program in the grant application, and also (of course) jot down all of the tips and answers to your questions that you receive. Make sure (and this is really important) that you file a copy of your notes in with the grant donor's file in the grant writer's office, for posterity. Through natural attrition, if nothing else, no one works for a nonprofit for forever. It will be handy for anyone in the grant writing office to have quick easy access to the notes from the conversation with the grant donor as they sit down to write the grant proposal (application) both now and even twenty years from now. If a grant donor gave to an organization even twenty years ago and it's applying to them again, now, it's handy to be able to reference that donation and the past relationship. This establishes continuity in the existence of a relationship but also demonstrates how grateful and organized your agency is.

Be sure not to take up too much of any one's time at the grant donor's office. If they are happy to talk with you or have questions, themselves, then of course remain on the phone in the conversation with them. Also, don't ask for any guarantees or for any unethical or questionable assistance, insider information, or promises. This only reflects on you and your nonprofit poorly and sends up a red flag. Instead, have confidence in your organization's potential, its talent pool, and its previous successes in the community and know that your application is worthy of serious consideration and being funded by them and all other potential donors. After submitting your application follow their process as it is outlined in their giving guidelines. Do not call or e-mail the grant donor's office asking where your application is in their pipeline. Do not hound them about whether your agency will receive the grant. Instead, be sure that you know when they will announce grant recipients and wait until a week or so (at the earliest) to hear from them if your agency received a grant.

Having an initial conversation with any potential major donor (including grant donors) helps nonprofits not only improve their chances to receive a grant from this donor; it can also often lead to other suggestions to increase funding for a project. For instance, grant donors speak to so many other entities (nonprofits, businesses, and governments) doing work in your organization's area that they can often make good recommendations to applicant nonprofits as to who to partner with, or what other entities may offer some powerful resources to provide a given program or project, or more. The conversation is intimidating to everyone who phones them - so do not field alone in your anxiety. It's O.K. and normal to feel it. Make the call and be open to a new relationship with a potential long term donor.

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