Applying for grants with little information
Recently, a client hired us to help them apply for a grant from a local foundation. This seemingly standard assignment, however, had a bit of a twist – the Foundation was “off the grid” in that it had no website, no one answered their phone, and no information could be found regarding their grant application process. The Foundation engaged in limited publicity, and our client had only discovered it by reading a press release sent out by one of the Foundation’s grant recipients. Our client’s funding need matched the goals of the recipient organization, hence our client’s interest. However, this scenario posed an interesting problem. In today’s world of information-overload, how does a grant writer proceed when no information is available?
Investigate and draft a letter of inquiry, of course!
With this assignment, we had two priorities: confirm that our client was a potential match for the grant making Foundation, and identify a way to apply.
We pulled up the Foundation’s profile in the Foundation Center’s Grant Database. While the profile had limited information, it did list the Foundation’s funding priorities. Priorities can shift, though, especially in rough economies, so it is important to compare listed funding priorities with recent grants. This comparison can highlight the grant maker’s current interests. To do this, we performed another quick Internet search to look for additional press releases from other grant recipients. We also looked up the Foundation on Guidestar, which can provide information on recent grants made. Recent grants matched the stated funding priorities we found in the Foundation Center Database, and our client’s intentions fell within the focuses identified. Since our client’s funding needs were a match with the organization’s recent grant making activities, we decided to proceed.
We called the Foundation a few times, but received no response. This isn’t uncommon, especially for smaller foundations operating with volunteer staff. Had our client known someone within the organizations that had previously received grants from the Foundation, we would have advised our client to connect with these contacts and inquire about the application process. This was not a possibility in this case, so we chose to draft a letter of inquiry.
A letter of inquiry is meant to introduce an organization to a grant maker and to briefly summarize how a grant from the grant maker would be used. Based on the information provided in the letter of inquiry, the grant making organization will decide whether or not it will consider a grant proposal from the applicant. To learn more about writing a letter of inquiry, you can visit a previous blog article on the topic here.
Once the letter of inquiry is submitted, the waiting game begins. With any luck, the foundation will contact our client requesting more information. That’s where we are right now. We’ll post a follow-up blog if we get a response from the funding agency.
Have a similar story? We’d love to hear your strategies about engaging with off-the-grid grant makers.