From my experience with a small family foundation, I have to be honest – less is more. It’s all about finding the sweet spot and presenting something exciting and innovative, and yet logical and sensible.
With so many nonprofits vying for a limited amount of foundation dollars, the job of deciding what organizations to award grants to can be daunting. As one foundation I visited with last week said, “I feel as if I’m standing in the middle of an alligator pit!” So many requests are received every single day by foundations that more often than not have no staff, little time and yet a lot of desire to fulfill their mission.
Think about it – they say you have a just a couple of seconds to grab the imagination of a customer (replace that word here with the word funder)…so make it good, and if you possibly can, make the letter one to two pages long. Any more is not good.
Introduction. Right off the bat, summarize the entire proposal in the first sentence. You must identify your organization’s name, add a little teaser about who you are, tell the funder what you are asking for, and how much. Then you can add a sentence explaining why the request is relevant, and let them know you are a 501c3.
Why you? The second paragraph should explain why you chose them. What led you to believe that your organization would be a good fit for their organization.
Tell them what the problem is. Explain the current problem. This is basically a need statement. Tell them how funding your project will give them a way to fulfill their mission and make things right. Here you can use statistics, quotes, solid reasoning, surveys, or whatever evidence you have. Just remember to make it simple – do not go on and on.
Tell them how you can solve this problem. List the steps you will take to solve this problem and add a time line. Be sure to create a time line you can live with.
Establish your credentials. Explain why you are a credible organization, and write about your project leaders – it’s good to look impressive.
Add a budget. Now you must substantiate the amount of money you are requesting. Document the numbers with realistic data based on recognizable units of measure.
Say thank you and goodbye. Thank them for considering your proposal, and offer to answer any questions.
Sign off with your name, title, and contact information. It’s wise to have the CEO, Chairman of the Board, President or anyone you feel is a heavyweight sign the letter.
Attachments. Remember to add a copy of your 501c3, your board, and whatever else the foundation requests from you.
It is important to remember that the first and last sentences are the most memorable in any correspondence. Good bye and good luck.