It is important for 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.
Be Prepared to Be Challenged
It doesn’t happen often, but a funder may take a combative approach with you during your conversation. One of our clients–a national nonprofit with a long history of providing services through affiliate organizations–was recently challenged by a funder who said, “Why should I give money to you to help other organizations help people when I can give directly to those organizations?” Our client was caught off guard and failed to provide the answer that they, of course, knew: By working through affiliates, this nonprofit could ensure quality service and economies of scale to local nonprofits that would otherwise not have the resources for instituting state-of-the-art services.
So think through your strengths in advance, but don’t take anything personally. As one of my grant-writing colleagues and friends likes to say: You win some and lose a few. Nothing is personal. Keep your head high and heart engaged!
Thank Them for Their Time
This may be obvious, but be sure to get your contact person’s name. Then—if they are a decision maker—address your letter of inquiry or cover letter to them. If they are a staff member, refer to your conversation with them in your letter.
If you decide that this funder is not the right one for you at this time, it’s still a good idea to send a thank you note as follow-up. After all, you may want to return to them to ask for funds at a later date.