“I sent out plenty of proposals (50 to be exact) and haven’t had any luck. I can’t figure out why. I carefully looked up foundations that matched their criteria in the TXNP foundation database, wrote each one of them a letter and mailed them. It should have been a perfect match. What went wrong?”
It absolutely couldn’t happen to you could it? Are you actually sending out letter after letter to people who have no connection to you or your organization, no frame of reference, and no time to look? Did you send them to people who skeptically read the letter, put it aside and then proceed on to one they did know about and did have a connection with? If you think about it, it’s really sounds like a case of plain old unsolicited mail. No one knows from whence it comes because there was no connection, no reference point, no face and no voice.
How do you get attention? Follow these steps:
1. Make sure you do your homework. Stop here and read carefully. Make sure you are looking at just the right foundation. You can’t just take anything at face value anymore. You have got to make sure that the foundation is just right for you. You have got to know everything about them – are they currently giving? Are they still giving to organizations like yours? What is their criterion? Can you spell their name right? Check out TXNP – we are updating criteria and profiles every day.
2. Get an introduction from someone who does know them. Perhaps a colleague, another foundation that has liked doing business with you, a partner, an acquaintance, their lawyer or accountant, or a mutual friend might be able to give you entrée. Ask for an introductory letter or email that might encourage them to take a look, “this group is doing some most interesting things in the community.” Give them a reason to want to meet you. Show them what a success story you are.
3. Show them how successful your programs are. Suppose you have no idea how to get close to them, and you have no one in common. You might send them an informative letter telling them about the situation you have in your community and what success you are having. An informative letter can state facts that you are proud of…facts that might encourage an investment from this group. An informative letter is ideally about 4 paragraphs long with an introduction explaining who you are, what problem you are solving and why, and a couple of stats. Do not add a power point, brag, ask for anything, or try to allude to the idea that you might ask for anything.
4. Ask if you can come to visit to inform them about your nonprofit. I think it can be appropriate (in some cases) to ask for a meeting to get acquainted by letter. (Some busy foundations will not accept unsolicited meetings…so please understand this.) But sometimes, you might be able to set up a meeting to inform a donor about your organization, its mission, its accomplishments, and its impact on your community. Enlightened people in the community like to know what’s going on and who’s doing it, and many times a donor will like to hear straight form the mouth of an organization that is in the field. So, it doesn’t hurt to write an introductory letter and ask for a meeting in which you can tell your story and ask for any advice the donor might like to hand out. Your letter can let them know that you have valuable information you would like to share with them. These people have usually seen a lot and have good ideas…they might even be a good source for brainstorming for more good ideas.
But remember the foundation that stated that he felt so besieged by requests that he couldn’t keep up. If you try all of these methods, and you still can’t capture their attention, don’t take it personally. The donor may be overwhelmed, totally committed, or focused on something else. Never give up – because tomorrow is another day….and things change.