What to Ask Program Officers About Proposals

by | Sep 19, 2018 | Development/Fundraising, Grant Writing

The world of grant writing takes a front seat for many of us in the Spring and Fall when a myriad of applications are available and due.

A key topic revolves around what questions you should ask program officers about proposals. The right questions can increase your chances at being funded.

First, let me make sure everyone understands this: Unless a foundation tells you NOT to reach out to them, you should be building a relationship with a program officer PRIOR to submitting a grant application. Asking program officers about proposals builds a relationship.

The most important part of all fundraising is relationship building.

The next thing I encourage you to practice is this: Never write one word of an application until you have read EVERY word of the grant guidelines. Small tidbits of vital information can be found all throughout guidelines, even the last sentence.

If you are new to grant writing, you will learn lots of things you need to know before working on an application through trial and error. You will become more familiar with the pieces you need to find quickly and the ones you can’t find answers for. I always start a list of the questions I can’t find answers for, do my due diligence, and if I still can’t find the answer, keep this on my list to ask a program officer during an initial call or email. You don’t want to waste the time of a program officer by not thoroughly vetting the 990s, reading their foundation website, or doing online research.

Some of the questions you will want to have an answer to are:
  • What is a typical grant award, or a range?
  • How much should a first-time grantee request?
  • Can we apply two years in a row?
  • Should we plan on a site visit? If so, before or after the award?
  • How many grant proposals does the foundation typically receive in the cycle you are applying for and how many do they typically fund?
  • Do you have to have the dollars in-hand before you can spend any money, or can you pay yourself back from expenses incurred prior to receiving the check?
  • Should you be selected for funding a) when will you be notified and b) when will the check arrive?
  • If you have had a chance to look over the application, do you need clarification on any of the items you need to provide?
  • If you are asked for an audit, will a 990 suffice? Do you need an official audit, or will a compilation report or a financial review do?

These are a few of the things you will want to know as you narrow down the applications that are a great fit for your organization. Many times, knowing the answers to many of these questions will help determine if a prospect is ideal for you or should be benched until a later date.

Check out the video below for additional tips when working on applications and having conversations with program officers.

Even if you feel you have no questions, you should reach out to program officers and build a relationship so they know who you are, you keep up-to-date on any changes with the foundation, and you establish an actual relationship and not one based solely on your asking for money.

To learn more about having conversations with program officers, check out this video Sandy Rees of Get Fully Funded and others we’ve recorded.

If we can help with Grant Writing or Development Coaching, let us know. Maybe you just want a few hours of consultation with one of our nonprofit experts – we can help. You may also find some Upcoming Events to attend or helpful information in our Free Stuff section. 

Keep Growing For Good!! – Mandy

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