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Top Five Strategies to Raise More Money From Foundations

April 03, 2015

Fundraising-treeWe all know that grants are awarded in response to submitted proposals — not the draft sitting on your desk but the one you actually get out the door. Sounds simple, doesn't it? If you're spending too much time writing, editing and fine-tuning your proposals, you won't get them in front of the decision makers at foundations — or at least not enough of them to bring in the significant dollars you could be raising. That's why my "top tip" for bringing in more funding is to spend more time asking and less time writing.

But getting more proposals out the door isn't a strategy in and of itself. Effective fundraisers need to determine the correct amount to ask for from foundations that care about what they do, and then work to build connections with those funders over time.

To that end, here are my top five strategies for streamlining your fundraising program and ensuring that you spend your time as effectively and efficiently as possible:

1. Re-purpose your proposal to more than one foundation. Don't reinvent the wheel every time you sit down to write a proposal. Write a base proposal that can be re-purposed and tailored to multiple foundations.

2. Tell the story of your work using the page most proposal reviewers look at first — the budget! Too often, the finance folks in your organization create the proposal budget without considering how clearly and effectively it conveys key points to the people who are going to review the proposal. An effective proposal is more than words alone; it should include a budget that clearly supports your proposal narrative!

3. Write proposals that include general operating support. That’s right — whenever possible, include general operating support in your project budget. The truly unrestricted grant is hard to come by, but that doesn't mean you can't include administrative costs in a program grant —when a funder allows it.

4. Build relationships with funders before you submit your proposal. Arguably, this is where the real work gets done — getting out in the community, building the reputation of your organization, and making connections. Sending a proposal to a funder "cold" should be your last resort.

5. When you get a "yes," use the initial grant period to set the stage for your next proposal. Relationship building doesn't end when you get a grant — that’s when it begins! Use the initial grant period to further engage your program officer and learn more about the foundation's interests and objectives. That way, you'll be in a stronger position when you approach him or her for a renewal.

Easier said than done, right? That's why we've created a webinar series that looks at best practices for reducing your proposal writing time and using that time to make more effective asks. Join me over four Wednesdays in April as we explore how you can raise more money from foundations. Topics covered in the series are not only based on my advice; I'll draw on thirty-plus years of listening to what foundation and corporate foundation officers have to say about what makes for an effective proposal, site visits, troubleshooting when you run into problems, and more. Attendees also will have an opportunity to share their own expertise, so you'll have a chance to learn from peers with a diverse range of experience.

The number of foundations in the U.S. and around the world is growing and so are the funds they have available for grantmaking. The funds we raise not only advance your work, they increase other funders' confidence in your organization. Register now for the Foundation Center webinar series More Asking, Less Writing, April 8-29. And don't worry if you can’t attend all the sessions —recordings are available to all registrants.

Headshot_marilyn_hoytMarilyn Hoyt is active nationally and internationally as a teacher, writer, and consultant. Her past experience includes twenty years as a founding staff member of the New York Hall of Science and twelve years as a grantmaker for the Westchester Arts Council in New York and the Washington State Arts Commission. She also is one of the authors of the Foundation Center book After the Grant: The Nonprofit's Guide to Good Stewardship.

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