Listen, Identify

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The first step to determining how best to approach a foundation is to do your research. You need to seek out information regarding what foundations align with a program’s area of expertise and learn how those foundations describe their missions. Once you have identified these elements, make a chart that includes: The Funder’s Name; Its Funding Priorities; Its Funding Region; Areas of Alignment for the Service Provider; and additional questions to ask the foundation.

Before you can figure out how to approach a foundation or potential donor, you need to do your research.

When conducting research, there are two basic questions that you need to answer:

  • Which foundations/donors align with my program’s areas of expertise?
  • For each foundation I’m interested in, how do they describe their mission, and what are their concerns and priorities?

In answering these questions, you are trying to figure out what value you can add so you can package what you offer in a way that is palatable and interesting to the funder. There are a number of online resources that can help connect you with potential donors as well. A good place to start is the "Nonprofit Fundraising and Grantwriting Page" of the Free Management Library located here.

Outlining the central elements of a funding opportunity helps structure fundraising efforts.

There are a number of aspects related to each potential funder that you should chart. The first is the foundation’s "Funding Priorities." This describes the types of work that most interests the funder. As you identify these priorities, make sure to document them using the same language as the funder. Next, identify the "Areas of Alignment" – both in terms of services and region – between the nonprofit and the potential funder. Finally, generate additional questions you would ask the funder at a potential meeting.

Click to open interactivity Use the funding propriety research template to chart aspects related to each potential funder.

Use the funding propriety research template to chart aspects related to each potential funder.

Please download this helpful template to begin creating your own Funder Priority Research Table.

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