5 Questions to Ask a Funder Before Applying
Writing a grant proposal is a lot of work, and it can be entirely deflating to get a rejection letter in the mail.
Lots of charities blast out template proposals to funders without really getting to know what they’re interested in, and whether our projects actually fit within their mission.
It’s a good idea to get to know your prospective funder before you apply. And you can do that even with a simple phone call. This initial contact will allow you to ask questions about their granting process, will help the funder become familiar with your organization, and will give you what you need to craft a successful application.
Before you schedule a call with your prospective funder, get as much information as you can from their website, from foundation databases, and from your network. Don’t waste their time by asking for information that’s publicly available – it’ll make you look like you’re not prepared.
Be sure to ask questions that will be helpful to your specific grant application. Here are 5 questions you can consider asking your prospective funder:
1. What are your current funding priorities?
If this information is publicly available, say something like “I read on your website that you’re interested in funding programs for at-risk youth. Is this still the case?” Probe a bit to find out why this is a funding priority for them to get at what the funder is really passionate about. You can also ask for more details on the kinds of programs they prefer. You might find out that they prefer youth recreation programs over those with a technology slant.
2. Describe your program and ask if it sounds like a fit.
There’s no point in playing a guessing game as to whether your program fits their priorities. Go ahead and give a brief summary of your program and ask if it’s something they’d like to see a proposal for. If they have multiple funding steams, ask for advice on where your program would fit best. Remember to specify whether your program is existing, new, or a scaled-up version of something you’ve been doing for a while.
3. Does any of your current funding disqualify you?
Some funders prefer not to give to organizations that receive government funding, or United Way dollars. Others prioritize charities that don’t have the ability to fundraise for their programs. Find out if any of your existing funders would disqualify your application.
4. The money questions.
This is the question charities tend to get squeamish about, but it’s an important one. You want to know what their typical grant range is. If you’re a first-time applicant, how much would they recommend you apply for? Some funders give smaller amounts to new charity partners to “test the waters” of the relationship. You’ll also want to find out whether they will fund 100% of a program, or if they prefer the charity or another funder to cover some of the costs.
5. How are grant decisions made?
Different funders have different systems for making a decision, and it’s helpful to know who’ll be reading your application so you can tailor your writing for the right audience. Some funders use community volunteers to screen and recommend applications. Others have granting committees where your proposal is discussed extensively by experts in the field. Some funders rely on their grants administrator to recommend funding, and others review each application with the board of directors.
When you set up this discovery call, think of it as the start of a long relationship with your prospective funder. Even if you don’t end up submitting an application this time around, or your proposal is rejected, you’re building a trusting relationship with your prospective funder and opening the door to future funding.
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