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How to Approach Grantmakers That Are Not Accepting Solicitations

by Beverly Browning on December 17, 2013
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No soliciting sign How many times have you diligently researched what you assumed was a potential foundation or corporate funder only to read these words, “Unsolicited proposals not accepted”? Yes, it’s frustrating when we only have a handful of funders on our prospect research list and any one of them publishes this statement. So how can you approach grant makers that are not accepting solicitations?

In this article, I’d like to share some creative strategies for approaching funders, along with some red flag warnings about implementing these strategies. Remember, when a potential grant maker is not accepting solicitations, they are actually on hiatus from being inundated with phone calls, emails, and stacks of envelopes containing unsolicited requests. Sometimes the delay in accepting applications is a small one that lasts only a few months; other times, the delay is indefinite because something is going on behind the scenes with the funder. Whatever the reason, you must be very careful in breaching this “do not send” message. Ignoring this notice could destroy your organization’s relationship with the funder, preventing you from approaching them in the future. In other words, you’d be burning a very valuable bridge and watching potential dollars drop into a deep hole.

First Approach Strategy – Targeting the Government Body

Go to the funder’s website and look for the names of the board of directors or trustees. Print them out and give them to your own governing body to see whether any members personally know any of the funder’s directors or trustees. If so, ask them to make a personal contact to determine how long the policy of not accepting unsolicited proposals will last. They should also ask under what circumstances a proposal will be reviewed. If the funder’s board member or trustee has the clout to introduce a new potential grantee to the program staff, your board member should ask for favor or advocacy. Make sure that you actually have a fully written grant proposal (edited and polished) ready to hand to the board member or trustee at the time your board member makes the request.
If there is no personal connection to the funder’s directors or trustees, I would suggest emailing or calling the funder directly to ask if this policy is temporary or permanent and how you can introduce your organization to them for future consideration, if any.

Second Approach Strategy – Asking for an Introduction to a Similar Funder

Acknowledge the funder’s position on not accepting unsolicited proposals. However, call or email the funder’s contact person (peruse the website for staff names and emails, as well as the funder’s mailing address) to ask if they can suggest any other funders you can approach that share their mission and geographic funding area. Remember, funders communicate with each other; they attend the same local, state, and national foundation councils. Using the internal network of funders to open doors for your organization is a savvy move, and it’s acceptable.

About the Author

Dr. Beverly A. Browning, Vice President of Grants Professional Services for eCivis, has been consulting in the areas of grant writing, contract bid responses, and organizational development for nearly four decades. She has assisted clients and workshop participants throughout the United States in receiving awards totaling more than $400 million.

About eCivis

eCivis is the nation's leading grants management software solution and the ideal platform for improving local governments' and community-based organizations' grants performance. For more information about eCivis, visit www.ecivis.com. For media inquiries, contact media@ecivis.com.

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