This week I had an opportunity to hear from three funders. It was a situation that every organization dreams of being in – being able to ask funders what you really want to know about how they view nonprofits, how they operate and why they do the things they do. I thought I would share some of the insights I gained here with you.
While it may seem that funders change their goals, it is important to know that their goals do not change, but often priorities may change over time. Sometimes, a funder may issue an RFP to address some issue that they recognize is a societal concern. In these cases, funders are not expecting a lot of information about the need, in their mind, they have already identified the need. Instead, they want organizations to spend their time describing the program or service that will solve the identified need. All foundations want to solve problems.
Partnerships continue to be extremely important to funding agencies. In addition to ensuring that a duplication of resources is not occurring, funders want to know that your organization has the capacity to make the proposed project a success. They want to have confidence that the money will be stewarded well and that you have the passion and commitment to carry out the project. If your organization is a grass-roots organization without a lot of experience, partner with an organization that has capacity and expertise to demonstrate your ability to achieve success.
Sustainability is really important to funders; however, they recognize that the sustainability question is a difficult one to answer. What all three funders reiterated is that they are not interested in funding a program or service forever. They want to see that the organization has at least thought about how it can be funded beyond the current grant. One of the best answers to the sustainability question is something along the lines of…”because of your funding, we will be able to leverage other funders including….”
Further, the sustainability question provides you with an opportunity to describe how your program or service is unique. Funders recognize that sometimes your uniqueness will keep you from becoming fully sustainable. In this case, answer the question, “how are you thinking outside the box?”
Finally, the funders all agreed that while data is important, stories are what “sell” the proposal. Pair the story with data to demonstrate the impact your organization is making. Funders are really interested in showing how they have impacted the world.
I hope these insights are helpful to you in your grant seeking efforts. Have other grant writing questions??? Send them to us, we’ll make sure you get the answers you need.