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Taking the Strategic Path to Grantseeking Success

Grant seeking 062813

By John Hicks, President and CEO, J. C. Geever, Inc.

Two of the biggest challenges grant seekers face are:

  1. choosing which foundations to approach and
  2. deciding how much to ask.

This article presents a framework for a strategic approach to grantseeking that may well help you save time and produce better results for your effort.

First, I recommend that you build a gift table based on the need for private sector support as shown in your budget. Building the gift table will enable you to:

    • Set ask amounts easily
    • Prioritize your solicitations from the top down
    • Show the potential donor how his gift fits into the overall fund-raising plan


Set requirements for the lead gift at 10 to 25 percent of total funding required over two years. This should be a significant enough number to catch the attention of additional donors.

For example, your agency needs to raise $200,000 to underwrite the first two years of a program. Your gift table could look like this:

Level of Gift                   Number Needed         Total              Cumulative Total

$50,000                          1                                    $50,000        $50,000

$25,000                          2                                    $50,000        $100,000

$10,000                          5                                    $50,000        $150,000

$5,000                            7                                    $35,000         $185,000

$1,000 or below           many                             $15,000         $200,000 (or more)

The strategic approach to grantseeking hinges on the your ability to stay focused on a key set of prospects who are to be asked for leadership gifts. Additionally, success with the grantseeking process will hinge on your commitment to make every solicitation count. This means making time to prepare carefully crafted strategies of outreach, making time to call the funder and to be gently aggressive enough to push a meeting.

Prioritizing solicitations is key to managing a fairly sizeable list of prospects, each of whom must be cultivated and solicited. Priority needs to be given to major gifts prospects (that is donors who will make leadership commitments needed to attract other support).

You should arrange your contacts into a schedule of cultivation and solicitation to take place over the span of a few months. To ensure you are able to cover all of these sources in the shortest possible time frame, I suggest that you prioritize your prospects by assigning to each a code that signifies the level of intensity of contact. This code will be based partly upon the level of gift you will be seeking and partly upon your perceived ability to connect with the funder. The following table illustrates:

                                         Intensity of Outreach

Category 1                     High

Success Factors

  • Has funded your agency before
  • You have a personal contact with an officer or director
  • One of your board members has a personal contact with an officer or director
  • Mission statement aligns tightly with focus of your program

Category 2                     Medium

Success Factors

  • Has given to programs very similar to yours
  • Assets and giving are large enough to accomodate a grant to your agency
  • Mission statement aligns tightly with focus of your program

Category 3                      Low

Success Factors

  • New or small family foundation or local corporation with no established giving patterns
  • General priority match, i.e., gives to organizations that falls within same genre as your                            agency or gives to local charities

For example, a high level gift prospect will likely be a well-established funding source with ample staff for you to connect and refine your approach. Or, this prospect may be a smaller, more low-key donor but with whom a member of your Board may have sufficient enough of a contact to open the door.

On the other hand, your donor prospect may be a family foundation who has given to agencies similar to your own. However, this foundation may be administered by a trust department of a bank or a law firm where staff do not take the time to meet with prospective grant recipients but rather collect and screen proposals. Your best bet will be to at least call to confirm the procedure for submitting a request and get your proposal on the table.

Following these simple steps will help you make the best possible use of your time and the time of a potential donor.  And in doing so, realize positive results for your charity and its work.

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. Do you have a post in mind? Pls share your ideas… happy to listen and converse.

    April 8, 2013

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