Ready to Call a Funding Prospect?

Think Through Your Strategy & Practice Your Pitch

January 17, 2018

You’ve done your research and found some good funding prospects. Now what?

Don’t just pick up the phone!

Even if you’ve made calls to a foundation or corporate prospect before, make sure you spend some time thinking through why that particular funder is a good fit with your nonprofit and practice what you’re going to say.

Getting your outreach strategy right is key since you won't get many changes to make your case to a funder. Take the time to do your research in advance: read through their website and funding databases to gather information. Do they fund organizations like yours? Do they have restrictions on accepting unsolicited requests? If they’re clearly not a fit, is it worth your time pursuing them?  If there seems to be potential -- especially if the programmatic fit is good or you have a contact there -- you should definitely consider reaching out.

In terms of approach, I recommend sending an email to someone who seems the best fit – likely a program officer in your area of focus – followed by a call.

What do I write?

Introduce yourself and your organization and share details on the program or project for which you are seeking support. You have to be very brief, so I advise thinking this through and writing up a draft that’s direct. Close by writing something like “I look forward to sharing more detail on our work. I’ll give you a call in the next few days and hope we can connect…”  

You may end up getting a canned response back saying they aren’t accepting proposals at this time, or you’ve reached the wrong person, in which case you should ask who would be the right person or put them on a list to check back to see if they’ve changed their policy in the future. You also may not get any response back at all, which doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t interested; you should still plan to follow up with a call. Sometimes you do actually hear back with a positive response indicating an interest. 

What do I say?

Regarding what you’re pitching, I suggest you think through what you’d like to ask for and be specific (i.e. program, project, initiative). You want to try to fit to what the foundation funds as best you can without creating new programs just to get funded (believe me, organizations do that!). Ask yourself: “Why is this particular funder right for us?” Often, they’ve funded a project similar to one you are doing or plan to do, or focus on a segment of the population you reach. If so, that’s what you want to talk about.

Don’t plan to go into minute detail about what you’re doing, but you do need to make sure you share why funds are needed, who you are reaching, and how your work has impact. Last, make sure you ask details on their proposal process and timeframe. I always suggest putting a script together that you can tailor for each call (not a script you’ll read word for word, but a general outline).

Most important: practice before you pitch! Ask a colleague to play the role of the funder or just pretend. Either way, go through the motions and verbalize what you want to say in advance of picking up the phone.

If you’re planning to make a pitch and would like feedback, reach out to us for a half-hour complimentary consultation. We’ll provide suggestions and share insight that may help you find a good match for your organization.

How to call a fundraising prospect with Focus Fundraising in Washington DC.