by Mandy Pearce

Lately I have heard a lot of people talking about how to determine the number of grants to apply for to guarantee funding for a program, project or organization. That concept seems a little crazy and unpredictable to me, like the lottery. I’ve been fundraising and grant writing for over 18 years and I have never seen a ‘formula’ for predicting funding from grants that is as reliable as simply doing your research and building a relationship with the potential foundation/donor.

While research and building relationships are both time consuming, the return on investment for both is unparalleled. When they are combined, amazing things can happen.

I encourage you to take the time to really research foundations and find the best possible matches prior to calling a program officer. Then, if you find a few that are stellar and look spot on, set up a time to talk to someone at the foundation and see if your insights are correct.

Once the conversation happens with the foundation, you should have a very good idea about pursuing that grant, how much to request, how favorable the foundation looks upon the program or project. At this point you have taken a huge step towards building a solid relationship with the foundation (which it VITAL).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to be guessing and submitting a bunch of proposals with the hope that some of them will be funded. It is worth my time and energy to do my due diligence before working on any application.

I encourage all of you to focus on research and relationship building as you work to determine which grants might be the best fit between your current needs about current foundation priorities.

Use this check list to make sure a potential donor is a good fit prior to making initial contact:

1.Does my program/project fall within the donor’s area of interest?
2.Where will my program/project have an impact?
3.Is our area of impact within the donor’s area of interest?
4.Does the average grant size fit my need?
5.Will we be required to match the grant? If so, by what percentage?
6.Are we confident we can ‘find the match’?
7.Are funds paid upfront or is it a reimbursement grant?
8.Grant funds can take time to acquire. Will the dollars come in time for our need?
9.Are there restrictions? (i.e., faith based, no transportion, etc.)

Use this check list to make cover your bases if you proceed to making initial contact:

1.Have a specific program/project in-mind and the reasons behind why you feel it is a good fit for the foundation.
2.Know your project/program start date.
3.Have an educated guess about how much you would like to request based on your research, looking at the foundation 990s and reading their website about giving amounts.
4.Be able to share information about other potential funding sources, foundations you have applied with for the same project, how you plan to fully fund the project and/or sustainability plans for future success.
5.Be ready to accept feedback, take suggestions, or tweak your proposed project/program to fit the priorities of the foundation if there is a good fit.
6.Email or call to set up a time to chat about your project. Do not assume the program officer will have time to talk when you make initial contact.
7.Be ready, willing and able to hear a ‘no’ if that is what you are being told. This will save you time and energy in the long run.