You feel a sense of accomplishment, and perhaps relief, as you check “write letters of inquiry” (LOIs) off your to-do list and hope that your carefully chosen words reach the desks of sympathetic foundation decision-makers. “Please,” you plead to God, or no one in particular, “don’t let those painstaking hours of work go to waste.”
If you recognize this scenario and wish to avoid the possibility of repeating it with no positive result, listen closely. A letter with no follow-up is a letter (probably) wasted. Read on for 5 tips on how to increase your chance at securing your next foundation grant.
1. Cover Your Bases
An easy first step is to fill out the “contact us” form on the foundation’s website to determine if they’ve received your letter of inquiry. If they haven’t, resolve that issue before moving on to tip #2.
Alternatively, find out if one of your board members, contacts, or colleagues knows anyone at the foundation, and if they would be willing to inquire if the LOI has been received. Better yet, ask them to make an introduction and inquire yourself.
2. Give Them a Ring (on the telephone, not the finger)
Picking up the phone and asking for the person addressed in your LOI may feel pushy, but it is certainly not. Politely inquire as to the status of your letter. If it’s been read, ask if they’re interested in receiving a proposal submission from your organization.
Try to strike a balance between friendliness and professionalism by finding common ground with your contact. This is relatively easy to do if you perform preliminary research prior to the call (or if you hire AmPhil to do the research for you). This is not schmoozy or overly corporate but it is the basis for building a relationship with donors. And relationships, after all, are the foundation of good fundraising.
3. Be Persistent
Should your contact prove difficult to reach, call them three times, minimum, over the course of a few weeks. Live by the classic “No Caller ID” line, “if it’s something important, they’ll leave a message,” and leave one with each missed call.
The messages will communicate that you are indeed calling with important business AND that you’re no lazy slouch. You know they’re busy, so you’re checking in to follow up.
4. Learn and Adapt
While checking in and following up, you may be faced with a rejection. This provides the perfect opportunity to request feedback on your LOI. Is there a better time in the foundation’s year to send such requests? Is there a certain type of project in which the foundation would prefer to invest in the near future? Take notes on their answers.
Trite, but true: rejection should be viewed as an opportunity for growth. Unless specifically told not to apply again, you should do so the next year, using their suggestions for improvement where applicable.
5. Choose Quality Over Quantity
Sending large batches of LOIs should not be reminiscent of tossing a handful of flower seeds into a ditch and hoping they’ll grow. Choose the foundations you contact carefully and put time into diligently keeping contact. This may mean sending fewer LOIs, but it ensures you will tend your garden of potential foundation donors well and fruitfully.