This week I’m teaching successful grant seeking in my Management of Cultural Institutions class at Brown University.
While perusing materials from a number of trainings Jon and I have taught on the subject, I found a handout entitled Secrets of Successful Grant Seeking.
You may have heard grant proposal writers say that 80% of the success in grant seeking happens before you ever lay fingers to keyboard. Just sending an out -of-the-blue proposal into cyberspace is usually like playing the lottery.
Here are a lucky 13 strategies that will help raise your potential for success.
- Design and implement quality programs – that’s what it’s all about, right?
- Cherish results and learning – measure, evaluate, revise, adapt. Funders want to fund organizations whose work is making a difference.
- Build strong peer relationships and partnerships: because it’s the right thing to do and because funders often turn to them as references for your organization or proposal.
- Keep your promises to your funders. Most funders understand when new programs may not achieving their desired results. But they are not very tolerant when you don’t do what you said you would do, especially if you haven’t communicated with them.
- Engage the ultimate decision-makers at family and corporate foundations.
- Cultivate knowledge and relationships with your program officer.
- Find connections and build relationships with potential funders. Seeing is ususally better than reading.
- Find donor value in your programs by discovering hidden value or bundling projects for maximum impact.
- Speak to your funder’s world view – understand how they see the world and their theory of change.
- Or yes, have a theory of change that is explicit and defendable.
- Create newness by incorporating new issues into existing programs, offering new audiences for donor portfolios, or developing new programs from what you have learned
- Be a thought leader in your field and communicate like one.
- Think and plan ahead — grants funding cycles are long and future oriented.
And when you do get to writing your proposal, follow the funder’s required format.
What’s on your list?
I recently revived a training on basic grant seeking. I thought I’d share some of the components with you as they are useful not just for grant seeking, but also apply to other aspects of your fund raising.
Let’s start with the Letter of Inquiry.
Crafting your Letter of Inquiry (LOI) for a foundation or other institutional funder is good practice for developing your case for support.
The LOI is a preliminary, shorter version of a grant application. In one to three pages, you need to convince the funder that your proposed project is important and worthy of a more thorough review.
In the LOI, you need to make your case against strong competition (hundreds or even thousands of proposals) in order to advance to the next round of consideration.
In a very short document, you need to answer these questions:
- What good this will accomplish (problem/need) and for whom (target audience) in keeping with the objectives of the grant guidelines
- How it accomplishes the funder’s goals
- Who you are and why you are the best organization to solve this problem/address this need
- What you plan to do, when you plan to do it, who will do it and why you believe it will be effective
- What will have changed/improved as a result of this project
- How much the project will cost, how much you want from the funder, and how you will pay for the other costs
And up the ante by also ensuring that your LOI is:
- Reasonable on its face, likely to succeed
- Extraordinarily compelling
- Using language that resonates with the funders theory of change
- Complete (includes everything the funder requested)
- Compliant with the length and space limitations of the funder
While we aren’t in the proposal writing business (at least not recently), we can help you develop your case for support and assess your readiness for grants funding. Just give Jon a call at 401-331-2272 or email Jon
Sitting in the file cabinets of most foundations are hundreds of thousands of final reports from grantees on projects funded by those foundations.
For some time I’ve been thinking that it is a shame that all that great learning is locked away, inaccessible from others who might put those lessons to good use.