Many foundations have a policy of not accepting unsolicited proposals. This begs the question, “How do I position my program to encourage them to request a proposal?” First, and most importantly, does your program match their funding interests?
Most foundations have a website, and often the website will provide examples of projects the foundation has funded. Review both their stated interests and recently funded projects. Look for similarities between what they have funded and your program. You should continue only if your project is an excellent match. If it is, consider these three options.
#1 Review their Board of Directors.
Do you, your Board of Directors, or past clients have a connection with anyone on the foundation’s board? If so, prepare talking points and meet with the person(s) who can introduce your program to the funding organization. This works best with local foundations as your contacts are more likely to know someone from their own community.
#2 Make a phone call.
If there are no contacts in common, pick up the phone. Again, use talking points specific to their funding interests. Your message should be short and in the form of a question. For example, if the funding organization is interested in STEM programs for middle school girls, you might ask, “Would your organization be interested in a proposal to offer middle school girls in Chicago a summer program led by former astronaut Mae Jamison to build and program rockets? Mae participated in our programs when she was a girl and has maintained a relationship with us.” While not many organizations are able to claim their program helped inspire a young girl to become an astronaut, the example demonstrates three important elements to include:
- An inquiry about their interest
- A project statement reflecting their funding interests
- A qualifier about likely results
#3 Submit a letter of inquiry.
An alternative to calling would be to send a letter of inquiry. Much like the phone call, the letter should be short; it should include a description of your program that reflects the foundation’s funding interests, a description of who your program will serve, the results you expect to achieve, and an inquiry about their interest in receiving a full proposal.
If your organization is ready to get started and would like our help, contact us for a free consultation. We have resources to find even more information and background on a foundation’s makeup and funding preferences.
Photo Credit: Kai Pilger