We ask all our clients to have a preliminary conversation with prospective funders before preparing to submit a proposal to them. For many, cold calling seems like a daunting task until they realize the benefits of calling and that they already know what to say. Here are some of our best pointers for calling funders continued from last week.
Ask to Learn More About the Funder’s Priorities
Do you think that you can learn all you need to know about the funder by reading the foundation’s website or the Foundation Center’s resources? You’re partially correct. Certainly, you should do your homework before calling a funder. However, you never know when a funder might impart a gem of advice that isn’t spelled out in their literature.
Approach your phone call with an open-minded attitude, ready to learn something new. Listen for key information. Take notes about:
- The funders’ priorities—in their own words
- Feedback on your proposed project-for-funding
- Their advice on how much to ask for (especially if this is your first request)
- What types of projects their board is most interested in
Offer to Summarize Your Project Plan
Ask if you can take a few minutes to tell them about your project idea so that you don’t waste anyone’s time with an unnecessary proposal. Some funders will decline your offer, but others will be grateful for the opportunity to discover whether you’re a match. Make sure to keep your summary brief. To do so, you’ll need to plan out the major details of your project before you make the call. Tell the funder just enough so that they can determine whether your project is of interest to them. Provide an overview of the following:
- Your target population
- What you propose to do
- How things will change as a result of your project
During this part of the conversation, you may receive a crucial bit of information that will redirect your proposal in new and unexpected ways. Perhaps you’ll learn of the funder’s preference to provide services to youths this year instead of seniors (and fortunately you want to expand services to both client populations!). Perhaps you’ll learn of their penchant for posting things online and you can add a web-based project component. Only you can decide if such changes stay true to your project focus and mission. If they do, you are likely to increase your chances of receiving funding significantly.