One of the most common questions I hear from people who are interested in grant funding is “Pam, at what point do I give up on a foundation? How many times does a foundation have to reject my grant proposal before I move on?”

Persistence is key

Grant ProposalsFirst off, always remember that persistence is the most important trait you’ll have as a fundraiser. Great fundraising is a multi-step process and far too many people throw in the towel at the first sign of failure – or move on to something else.

Your email blast resulted in three donations so you give up. “Maybe email isn’t the way to go,” you sigh.



Five grant proposals to five new foundations resulted in five declinations. “Maybe our mission just isn’t one that appeals to foundation funders,” you say, and turn your efforts to tying goodie bags for your upcoming event.

Here’s a little story that might make you think twice about giving up …

A Story on Persistence

Grant ProposalsEarly on in my own career, I worked for a small Philadelphia nonprofit that worked with talented middle school kids. I had been on the job a matter of weeks, diligently reviewing the past foundation grant files and researching prospective funders when I came across the “perfect fit” foundation. Our mission and theirs was a match made in heaven and a look through the files told me that we had never applied to this foundation before.

Days later, after spending hours drafting the *perfect* grant proposal, I was within minutes of putting it in the mail when I discovered that, yes, we had applied to this foundation in the past. As a matter of fact, the organization had applied three times and been declined every time.

Where were the records? Why weren’t the files where they were supposed to be? That’s a whole ‘nother story – one more appropriate to an article on the high attrition rates prevalent in nonprofit fundraising (did I mention that I was the fifth development director in three years?).

“Why haven’t you funded us?”

Grant ProposalsThe point to this story is that upon discovering our discouraging history with this prospective funder, I immediately placed a call to the foundation offices. I was pleasantly surprised when the foundation president picked up the phone himself. To my bold query of “Why haven’t you funded us?” he laughed and suggested I send in a letter of intent.

So I scrapped my *perfect* proposal and sent the requested letter. Within two weeks, we had a site visit. Within a month, our proposal was fully funded. To this day, not only does that foundation provide regular grants to the organization, they’ve brought additional funders on board as well.

So when do you give up? When a call to the foundation offices lets you know in no uncertain terms that a grant proposal from your organization doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being funded. Ever.

What can you do this week to ramp up your foundation grant funding? Pick up the phone and call a handful of your best foundation supporters. Ask them for recommendations of foundations who may be interested in your mission.

And remember, building sustainable funding doesn’t happen overnight.

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1 comments
Denise
Denise

Loved this anecdote about picking up the phone and getting the president! One of our authors who's featured at CausePlanet and a former foundation officer talks about the LOI and what foundations look for: http://bit.ly/15nZJWJ We also have another former foundation officer who weighs in on this book in her article at: http://bit.ly/XggLYv Thanks for the great post!