How to Contact Grant Makers with Success
Last week was a busy one for me: I am the contact person for applicants to a local Education Foundation and Friday was the proposal deadline! It never fails that the few days before the deadline I am flooded with questions from people applying. Most of their questions and requests are within reason, but I thought in the spirit of this week, I would offer suggestions on how to contact funders with questions about your proposal.
- Do what they ask you to do. Funders may specify on their website how they want to be contacted the first time. Honor these requests, e.g. if they ask to approached by email, do not call. Be sure you have the correct contact number or email and name. This shows you care enough to have done your homework.
- Play detective. Find out as much about the foundation and their program as you can before you call. Read their website, the annual report, and search local newspapers for their name. Get a good idea that your program is appropriate from them.
- Have a concrete idea. Before you approach them, be sure you have a good idea what your program will look like. Write down a three-paragraph summary of your idea using the 5 Ws to guide you: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? This way you will be prepared to answer tough questions about your proposed project and will show that you are serious about making it happen.
- Ask intelligent questions. There may be no stupid questions, but some smart questions can make you look stupid - especially if they have already been answered on their website. Draft a couple of questions in advance and be sure that you cannot find the answer to them anywhere else.
- Start early. You can’t assume that you are the only procrastinator in a group of applicants, so understand that if you wait until the days (hours) before the deadline to ask your questions, you will be in a long line. Try to plan ahead and avoid this all together, but if you must, be sure to emphasize that while you appreciate the help, you understand if it is not possible. Don’t whine, beg, or plead the computer-crashed-and-dog-at-my-hard-copy story. Do you appreciate these things when someone is asking you to do them a favor?
- Be respectful, courteous and grateful.If all goes well, these funders will be financing your dreams and you certainly want to show them the proper respect for the opportunity to ask them to do so.