Wait – Don’t Just Pick Up The Phone

So, you have decided to move forward with a call to a prospective foundation funder (after considering this information we shared in our last post, Call Me… Maybe: Determining If You Should Call a Foundation Prospect).

The most important thing to remember: the contact you make with a potential funder can make or break your grant application before you write a single word.

That being said, prepare and prepare some more. Do your research on the funder and the person to whom you will be speaking. Think of this as you would a job interview. Just as you present your best self during an interview – for this conversation, you want to do the same for your organization. Here are five things to consider during your preparation.

Only Ask Questions You Couldn’t Find Through Research

Before you make a call, seek to find the answers to your questions using the funder’s website and third-party sites like GuideStar. If you use a phone call or meeting to ask questions that you could have answered with a little research, you will have wasted the funder’s time. That will make a terrible impression and likely have a negative effect on any future grant applications.

Anticipate Objections

After doing your research, think of possible objections the funder might have to consider a grant request from your organization. I once met with a funder who assured me he would never fund an organization as large as mine. I quickly explained that the program actually benefited grassroots organizations that were the sweet spot for this funder. I was only ready for that because I had done my research and anticipated the objection.

Make the Most of Your Time

Go into this conversation knowing that this could be the only time you talk to the funder. Never think, “I’ll ask that next time” because there might not be a next time. Prepare thinking, “this might be my only shot” and make the most of your time while being respectful of their time.

Prepare an Elevator Speech

Don’t wing it. Even if you are good at extemporaneous speaking, this is not the time. Prepare a two-minute elevator speech that summarizes your organization and your request. End with, “Does this sound like something in which your foundation would have an interest in learning more about through a written proposal?” Once you ask the question, stop and listen carefully to their answer.

Practice

After preparing but before dialing: practice. Find someone outside your organization and practice your questions and elevator speech. Use a stopwatch and make sure you are getting it done in the time allotted.This may seem like a lot of work to make a phone call, but you only get one chance to make a first impression. This could be the start of a long and worthy relationship for your organization – that alone makes it worth the effort.

Next time, we’ll talk about actually making the call and how to make the best impression possible in a short amount of time.

Sara Leonard
Sara Leonardhttp://saraleonardgroup.com/
IN HER 25 years of nonprofit work, Sara has held many titles and been a solutions-oriented advancement professional. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Tampa and an MBA from the University of South Florida. She is a Certified Fundraising Executive and has been named as a Master Trainer by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. As the founding director of the Nonprofit Leadership Center’s Fund Development Academy, Sara created an extensive curriculum of fundraising and board governance courses. She has had the privilege of working with organizations to achieve their fundraising goals through instruction, coaching and consulting. She continues to serve as an instructor for the Fund Development Academy. She has worked in the nonprofit sector raising funds for healthcare, educational and cultural organizations. She managed development operations including identification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of donors, managing annual giving, major gift cultivation and solicitation, training and management of staff, board and volunteers, foundation and corporate support, sponsorships, annual funds, special events and in-kind support. She is widely considered an expert in crisis fundraising and has guided organizations through capital campaigns – both large and small. Sara serves on the board of directors of the Suncoast Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and New Tampa Young Life. She is a former board member of the AFP Florida Caucus. She lives in Tampa with her husband and two children.
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