How To Ask Foundations for Money

Today I am writing up some proposals that i will be presenting to a number of Foundations when i am back in USA next month (Aug 21-25). This kind of thing really wears me out but its a necessary part of mission work and getting the job done. My previous mode of working was to ignore the Foundations and do everything without money as much as I could. But Donors also want to play a part in the Great Commission. Especially the more exciting stuff that I have been involved in this past decade -the mission of God in the global emerging culture – and I have a responsibility to make space in the playground for them also.

As far as writing up proposals go, I have no natural tendencies or gifts in this area [and Puh-leeeze dont bombard with me emails] but I have been taught by the best. On a number of occasions, I have sat under the Proposal Guru Dr Steve Steele (ex-DAWN, now Global Strategist for the Maclellan Foundation) and jotted down notes on how to partner with donors in a way that benefits both parties. In fact, I went through this again last week in London at a special meeting I organized for some emerging culture leaders from around Europe and some representatives from Maclellan Foundation – Lee Behar and Steve Steele. I didn’t blog on this meeting, and probably wont, but towards the end of our meeting I asked Dr Steele to give some advice to the group on approaching American Foundations for their projects. He smiled and began to talk and our pens came out and notes were frantically taken and when Steve had finished, there was a suspended hush, a religious silence, a monumental awe-filled appreciation of BIBLICAL proportions!

I wouldn’t broadcast all his secrets in a blog post [he really should write a book] but I will pass on a few snippets of wisdom that I know he wouldn’t mind me sharing. If you find yourself in a position where you need to raise support for mission projects, and you want advice from a Master, then read on . . .

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The best proposals are those that connect the dots, make sense financially, and have an impact that lasts much longer than the grant. Donors shy away from creating dependence, but like to accelerate a process and leverage ministry situations to be even more fruitful.  The question is not "how much can i do in ministry" but rather "how much can i get done" – you should be training others for ministry and to take your place. Donors do not want to pay salaries because that creates dependance. Donors would rather give a percentage of the total amount. Less than 25% of the overall budget is good and it reduces paperwork due to government legislation.

Its better to build a relationship slowly with a donor. A "cheap date" (Lee used that phrase) kind of grant might work one year and the next year, after the relationship is stronger and the results from the small grant are satisfactory, you could ask for a larger amount.

How much? Probably more than $10,000 and less then $75,000. The 20-25k range is best and you can go from there.

Your proposal should consist of a 1-2 page executive summary and a 1-2 page outline of the ministry opportunity and expected outcomes. Measurement of success is usually up to you and how you will measure it. But its important that you know what measurement criteria exist and communicate that. And be honest when time comes to report back. Donors are smart people and also understanding. If parts of the project fail, let them know. And don’t wait until the end of the project before reporting. Regular reports and updates are the best way to go [ooops .. .  i am preaching to myself here . . . and getting convicted]

Many Foundations have decent websites and even online forms to fill out that meet their requirements. Dont forget that you are a ministry to them – you feed them information that is vital and helps them make decisions in many areas. You also create a space for them to participate in giving what God has given them.

You will find, as I have, that wealthy donors and the folk from Foundations are usually very approachable and warm. They have big hearts but they are also street smart and like to see their investment given wisely and in a way that produces great things. They are not as ‘nostalgic’ as denominations and dont want to see their money misspent. So do them a favor and create a GREAT project and a GREAT proposal. Go ahead and MAKE THEIR DAY!

OK – Dr Steele didnt say that last part. Clint Eastwood did. But you get the point.

As for me and my thoughts on this matter . . .  my one addition to Dr Steele’s advice is this: Don’t ever say "Show Me The Money!" in your proposal, despite its tremendous comedic potential. Jerry Macquire and your proposal do not mix. So . .. Must not, Must not say "Show Me the Money! And no . ..  i am not speaking from experience.

Anyway, now I have to get down to the nitty gritty and write out some of these proposals. Ahhhh .. .  PAPERWORK . .. ummmmm . . . unless, of course, I can find another worthy diversion . . .

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

17 Comments

  • Brilliant suggestions. I am comedically bad at proposal writing and would merrily pay for a book (or workshop) on this area. Of course, it is a good reminder that the most important aspect of this is still down to hard work.
    Also, I think it is an important ministry (helping people define goals and write proposals) since every year for the last 15 years I’ve seen other people’s good ideas struggle or fail because they can’t connect with like-minded support.

  • Thank you Andrew! Very useful and what I need to hear. This fits with what I have been hearing in last few years. Good to see Lee with his contribution. Blessings in Germany!

  • Having been on the other side of the foundation vs. non-profit equation (actually, I’ve been on both sides), your comments are indeed on target. There’s a lot of interest in feedback, measurable outcomes, and reporting, along with making impact and not dependence. This is particularly notable among “new money” philanthropy vs. “old money” philanthropy.

  • Thank you for the advice. We are in really exciting times. I am encouraged to appraoch foundations based on this post. Good work.

  • As my “side” job, I am currently working at a Foundation. One of the most important things you can do when seeking grants is to personally contact the Foundation to make sure that the information you have is correct.
    I say this because our deadline was changed about 3 years ago from July 31st to May 31st. We still have people calling all during the month of July stating, “I’m getting ready to send you our grant proposal and I want to make sure that I have your information correct.”
    I then have to advise them that the Foundation changed the deadline several years ago. They are disappointed, but I do offer to send them a postcard with all of our requirements so that they can be able to submit the following year.
    Our Foundation does not have a website at the request of the Trustee. We do not advertise anywhere. But for some reason, the Foundation resources that are out there don’t bother checking their own information they are sending out. People pay good money for this information and it should be correct!
    Just a thought for those looking for grant money…take time at the first of the year to contact the organizations you are seeking money from to make sure your information is in line with their requirements.

  • Comments on “How to Ask Foundations for Money”:
    Great beginnings. Lets have some more. I’ll use your pointers as we start to find resources for a new ministry opportrunity that has arisen. Thanks.
    Dave

  • I’ve written (small) grants and gotten money. I suspect it helps if you can say `partially funded’ One place I approached asked me for a `heads up’ on how much I’d already raised.Another foundation wanted a list of 10 prior donors(but this could include private donations…not just foundations) Some local libraries (USA) have a `non profit resource center’…there are moderately priced books out there on grantsmanship. I’ve found in writing and in personal and follow up conversation…its back your vision with tangibles….not just budget, but cost to benefit ratio (or for more business like ROI return on investment)

  • Ive written (small) grants and got money.It helps if you already have some donors, or you’re on the way to capacity.One place I wrote to asked what was `remaining of what I needed’
    Tangibles: Cost to benefit ratio, return on `investment’ map these in the project description.
    Local libraries (USA) sometimes have a non profit resource center.
    Workshops on grant writing help.

  • I am so thankful for this article and all the comments from others.
    I am a Misionary in Dominican Republic and have 30 children sponsored in diferent Adventist Schools here. But I wat to ask for a grant to get these kids started in paying for their own studies by working in their own small business. I have never written a grant proposal. I need an example of one, and a list of foundations to which I could send my petition.
    Blessings

  • WONDERFUL ADVICE! I’M JUST EMBARKING ON THE REQUESTS FOR MONEY TO FUND MY PROJECTS AND THIS INFORMATION HAS BEEN OF IMMENSE VALUE! SO NICE TO HEAR SOMEONE NOT ONLY RECOGNIZE, BUT PRAISE THE LORD IN THEIR ENDEAVORS. GOD BLESS YOU!

  • Here is a great source for finding foundations and newsletter with good practical advice…plus it is free http://www.guidestar.org/index.jsp . Many professional fund-raising use this service. The Christian Stewardship Association has some useful material as well. The hold seminars all over the USA that have fund raising professionals sharing their insights into raising money. Many of them have written books that are worth getting for a short and cheap course in raising money! http://www.stewardship.org/
    I hope this helps everyone. God has tons of money out there for His work. The people that have the money just don’t know who is out there and doing what!

  • I am amember of a small methodist church. Our members are elderly and in need of a good av system. Can you recommend a foundation that can help us? Can you give me a list of foundations that might help us? I also need help in writing proposals.

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