Did you have to run and jump hurdles in gym class as a kid? I hope not because they’re hard, really hard, and what if you trip up?!
Hurdles in our fundraising and grant writing field aren’t much easier.
And in the spirit of the summer Olympics (coming soon!) I’m offering quick tips to tackle the BIG hurdles that people have asked me about…
Hurdle #1: Funders that don’t accept unsolicited proposals.
While there are more than 100,000 grant-making foundations in the United States, only some of them invite grant proposals from nonprofit organizations, review them, and issue grant awards.
What about the rest of them?
Well, some foundations form for a very specific reason. Let’s say you and I decide to start a family foundation in honor of our Auntie Mildred who loved running (but not hurdles). We can decide to give grants only to organizations that promote running programs for girls, and no one else.
Or we can form a foundation where we select who we want to fund, rather than inviting anyone to apply. And we make sure we are listed in all the funder databases and our website as “does not accept unsolicited proposals”.
“But this foundation would LOVE us if they only knew us!” you say.
So what are your options? Read on for my 3 quick tips…
Tip #1 Leverage your Board of Directors
First be sure you’ve done all the research on your “unsolicited” foundation (checked IRS 990’s, annual reports, used search engine tools like google, foundation database research, etc…), so that you know exactly who is on this foundation’s Board of Directors.
Next, share the list of the foundation’s board with your own organization’s Board of Directors. Does anyone on your board know anyone on theirs? If so, the next natural step is reaching out to make a connection. Often foundations that do not accept unsolicited proposals DO want to learn about other initiatives happening that fall in alignment with their own mission. Think of this as a chance to make their job of charitable giving easier!
Tip #2 Social Media
While most foundations do not have a website, many are active on social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. Following or “liking” these foundations can be a great way to get to know their priorities better.
Foundations often make important announcements or share success stories about their grantees on social media so pay attention to whom they fund and why. And be sure to engage with them on social medial. Maybe share your own success stories? It’s the beginning of building that relationship you always hear about.
Tip #3 Don’t ask for money.
This may sound counterintuitive but I’m suggesting you get to know the foundation first in a real and genuine way (not with the intent of asking for funding). Instead ask for advice or listen to the story of why they were founded. It’s another way to begin to build an authentic relationship with a funder and it often goes a long way.
And as a sidebar, one of my mentors once said to me “Ask for money and you get advice; ask for advice and you get money.”
What have you done that has been successful to reach funders that don’t accept unsolicited proposals?