(Guest post from Marilyn Hoyt, Nonprofit Consultant, New York)
Grants are often the most accessible source of funds for our work,
regardless of our mission or our nonprofit’s size. And working with grantmakers is such a pleasure. They are often deeply informed about the same issues we care about.
The trap in foundation fundraising is to focus on writing proposals. It’s interesting; it makes you feel like you must be raising money, and no one ever turns you down while you are writing a proposal.
But we actually raise grant funds when we are asking—identifying the foundations that share our priorities, introducing ourselves a bit before we propose, sending in a well-structured proposal with an appropriate ask, and building our relationship to the next level the minute we hear back from the foundation. (Yes—even when the answer is a “no.”)
These steps sound like so much work. It might get in the way of writing all those proposals! But, with a set of research and calendaring tools, a simple and effective approach for projecting what we can actually raise next year, and a method for doing most of the heavy lifting on writing just once a year, we can actually manage many foundation proposals and relationships. Not surprisingly, the foundations think about this work in the same way. They need to manage higher grant volumes and also don’t have time to sit around thinking up custom approaches for every one of their grantees.
When I was a grantmaker, one of the proposers we turned down sent me an angry letter signed in blood. After I got over being super-startled, I thought a lot about how sad it was that this person thought he could write just one proposal, throw it over the transom, and expect all the money he needed to come flowing back. None of us reading this blog are like this angry proposal writer. But it is easy to fall into thinking that if we use all our time writing lots and lots of proposals, we’ll raise lots and lots of money. Not true—not even sort of true. But there is a proven way to increase the funding any of us can raise with the time we have for foundation fund raising.
When we think about “more asking—less writing,” we are thinking quite literally about how to raise the volume of successful foundation approaches while spending less time on proposal writing. Last fall, in partnership with the Foundation Center, I created a four-part webinar series to outline this approach, More Asking—Less Writing. Based on evaluations from our colleagues who joined us the first time around, we’ve added a whole new session on how to write a proposal budget that tells our story effectively to our prospective funders.
If you took this course before, you can register for just this new budget session. In fact, anyone can register for any single session to brush up on a particular topic. Those of us who join up for four sessions will come to know each other’s best practices as well as the handouts and proven techniques I’ll share. Hope to meet you in our webinar class on March 5th!
Marilyn Hoyt is active nationally and internationally teaching, writing and consulting. Her past work includes 20 years raising over $200 million as founding staff of the New York Hall of Science and India’s first graduate course on science museum marketing and corporate sponsorship. Earlier she served 12 years as grantmaker for the Westchester Arts Council in New York and the Washington State Arts Commission and fundraising consulting for J.C.Geever, Inc. with both operating and capital campaign clients. Marilyn is one of the authors of the Foundation Center’s book After the Grant: The Nonprofit's Guide to Good Stewardship. She is Board Chair of New Knowledge, a trustee of the Association of Fundraising Professionals New York Chapter, Science Friday, and program co-chair for Fund Raising Day in New York. She also serves as an advisory member of Columbia University’s Masters in Fund Raising Day in New York.