Grant Dating, Part 1: Getting Out There

broken heart

You may have just had your heart broken.  It seemed like things were going well.  Everything was perfect on paper.  You were talking about it with friends.  You thought you had found the one.  And then, out of the blue, it ended.

Every grantseeking nonprofit has had this experience.  Your programs match the funder's interests and priorities.  You put together a thoughtful proposal, addressing the funder's particular interests, hoping to land significant funding.  It looks promising, and then it doesn't happen.

Like dating, grant dating is relationship building, and it takes time, dedication, interpretation of unclear signals, and some strategy.  And a little flirting doesn't hurt.

Step one - put yourself out on the market.  Even if your last grant date was a disappointment, you need to get back out there.  Yes, rejection hurts, but learn from it and move on.  You're good enough, you're smart enough, and, doggone it, people like you (with apologies to Stuart Smalley).

Putting yourself back on the grant market means doing a few things:

  • Take stock of your past funder relationships.  Have you stayed in touch?  Do you know their current priorities?  What happened to end the relationship?  Might they be open to exploring a future relationship?  If not, what can you learn about how to position yourself with other funders?
  • See who's out there.  Who is currently funding your issue area?  Your geographic area?  Start with the Top Five Resources for Grant Opportunities.  Even if a funder isn't currently accepting proposals, this could be a good time to start building a relationship.  You have to play the field a bit to find the right relationship.
  • Let your friends know you're dating.  A lot of funding relationships evolve from personal connections.  Do you know anyone at a foundation that hasn't yet funded your organization?  Does one of your board members?  Or a volunteer?  Ask for an introduction.
  • Create your online dating profile.  What is the impression you want to make on a prospective funder?  What information should be on your organization's website if a potential funder visits the site?  How can you put your best foot forward in an initial meeting?  It may only be a phone date, but you want to make a good first impression.  Be prepared to talk about your organization when you meet people at conferences, at networking events, or when you're introduced by a mutual friend.

Next up, preparing for your first date.  Stay tuned!



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Author: Dahna Goldstein
August 10, 2010, 04:01 PM

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