The following is an excerpt from my new book, The Fruition Coalition Grant Proposal Workbook. ISBN 978-1-300-59094-1. $24.99.
The staffing structure of each philanthropic partner will vary according to its size and organizational design. Most partners will have a designated person to whom inquiries about the feasibility of partnership may be directed. In larger foundations, there may be several program officers with each assigned to a specific geographic or programmatic area. Others might have one volunteer who manages all of the affairs of the organization. Check the organization’s website and annual IRS information return for information about the best person to contact.
When you contact a program officer prior to submitting a proposal, your goal will be to establish a trusting, mutually beneficial relationship. To do this, you will need to balance getting to know the program officer with helping her or him understand the work of your organization.
Prior to calling:
research the philanthropic partner;
strategically think about how the work of your organization fits within the scope of the philanthropic partner’s work; and
identify your goals for the conversation and partnership, but remain open to unexpected possibilities.
During the conversation:
introduce yourself, your organization, and the program you would like to discuss;
ask lots of questions to determine the prospective philanthropic partner’s goals and priorities, vision for the future of your community, philosophy of partnership, ideas about potential collaboration with other organizations, and openness to developing relationships with new nonprofit partners,
determine whether or not the prospective philanthropic partner is interested in continuing the relationship and, if so, then discuss next steps and the future direction of the partnership; and
remember to listen as much as, if not more than, you talk; truly be open to the perspective and ideas of the prospective partner.
After the conversation:
send an acknowledgement to thank the program officer for her or his time and to reiterate key conversation points; and
document details from the conversation and keep your notes on file.