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Private-Sector Funders: Getting Them to Consider a New Funding Area

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How many times have you scrutinized a potential private-sector funder's profile looking for a perfect fit between what your organization needs and what the private-sector funder funds? You've read the funder’s summary or information on funding areas and cannot find any category that is an ideal fit to meet your needs. Should you just cross that grant maker off your list when it happens to be a local funder in your region? Absolutely not.  

I’ll share a few action steps to help you help a funder see your organization's critical needs that are not being met by local funding sources.

Step 1: Identify and validate your organization’s need for funding. At a minimum, you must compile a community, organizational, or infrastructure needs assessment to collect validating data. The need cannot be assumed or validated in your mind. Paper reports count!

Step 2: Identify all local (town, city, village, and special district) and regional (county and state) grant funders. Create an electronic folder for each funder and copy/paste all their information into files that are saved to their folder. Copy the complete funder’s profile and the information from their website. On the website, look for: previous grantees, financial reports, areas of funding interest, board of directors or trustees names, and staff names and positions. Also, copy and paste the contact information. Even if you find potential funders that don’t fund your type or organization or don’t fund in any area that fits your grant-related needs, still create a folder for all the funders in geographic proximity to your organization.

Step 3: Review each funder’s information. Create a table in which you can copy/paste in the name of the funder, areas of funding interest, average grant award, application deadline, and contact person for the funding program (name, email, and telephone number). Add a column to the table for Introduction Strategy. Your strategy is how you plan to initially introduce your organization and its needs to the funder. Of course, you’ll want to meet in person and have a folder or portfolio ready with your needs documentation and information about your organization.

Step 4: Prepare your meeting materials and call the funder to ask for an appointment to speak to them about an urgent need in the community. Consider these examples of talking points to capture the funder’s attention when you go to the meeting:

  • "I’ve studied your funding criteria in depth and noted that an organization like ours has never been awarded a grant from your foundation."
  • "I’ve reviewed all your funding criteria and your previous grantees. I couldn’t find one grant award to support professional development for municipal employees working in rural service centers."
  • "I’ve collected some national and regional data on how the proficiency of frontline public employees in dealing with disgruntled customers is directly related to their safety in the workplace."
  • "In the past five years, the County of Orange Peel has had 30 percent of its rural service center workforce (we have three outreach centers in the county) off of work with stress-related illnesses. These sudden sick leaves occurred after each employee was accosted or verbally abused by an unhappy taxpayer."
The conversation should convey "gloom, doom, drama, and trauma." If you are going to approach a funder that does not fund units of municipal government or does not fund professional development, and you want to convince them that there is a need, you had better demonstrate the urgency!

Step 5: Ask the potential funder to consider adding a pilot area of interest for your professional development needs. Indicate that you will aggressively look for other funding support within your service area; however, your needs are so dire that you need for them to be the lead funder so other potential funders will follow. Before you leave, ask if you can prepare a grant proposal and submit it before their next deadline. Also, ask if you can submit the proposal earlier than the deadline for their pre-review just in case they want your request reworded or framed differently.

The bottom line: You have nothing to lose in taking this approach. If you don’t ask, your chance of getting grant award from any funder is zero, so go for it! And let us know about your experience, and hopefully your success!

About eCivis

eCivis is the nation's leading grants management software solution and the ideal platform for improving local governments' and community-based organizations' grants performance. For more information about eCivis, visit www.ecivis.com. For media inquiries, contact media@ecivis.com.

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