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How to Overcome Common Obstacles to Connecting with Potential Funders

Introduction

Block out time for calls to funders

We get it. Running a nonprofit is incredibly hard work and leaves you with very little spare time. However, in order to gain the revenues needed to continue your important work you must carve out time to make calls and forge new relationships with funders. Blocking this time on your calendar in advance is a good way to hold yourself accountable and make space for this important task.

Prepare a fact sheet

Making a call to a potential funder is much like sitting down to take a test. Before you pick up the phone you should have already taken the time to research the funding organization to ensure their organizational goals align with your fundraising goals. It may be helpful to have some notes in front of you with helpful facts to have ready during the call. This fact sheet can include examples of previous projects the donor has funded that are similar to yours, an outline of specific program opportunities, detailed information about your programs, and any other information that can help provide context and clarity about why you believe the funder is a good match for your organization. There is no such thing as being too prepared for your first phone call.

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Focus on making a personal connection

Grant seeking and fundraising require a relational strategy. Forging new relationships with individuals is one thing, but approaching a goliath foundation may be intimidating. However, there is no reason to shy away from larger funding organizations. Remember that every organization, no matter how large, is still comprised of individual people — each with their own personalities, passions, and quirks. Connecting on a personal level can be equally (if not more) valuable than ensuring your organization looks good on paper. Don't let the size of an organization prevent you from having the same friendly and open approach you would have with smaller and less intimidating funders.

Leverage connections

Even the most experienced grant seekers will find it hard to reach certain funders. Whether their inbox is overcrowded, they don't answer calls from unknown numbers, or they're simply too busy to spare a few minutes, it can be incredibly frustrating when you can't get on a funder's calendar. Try not to get discouraged when this happens. Instead, try out these tips:

1. Work down the organizational calendar (use LinkedIn, their website, etc.) until you get in touch with someone

2. Use the channels they communicate on (e-newsletters, social media, attending a local event)

3. Leverage board members, staff members, and personal connections

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Embrace the learning curve

Finally, keep in mind that donor cultivation is a long game. Establishing a connection with a funder usually takes multiple touchpoints, and leaving a positive and memorable first impression is a success in itself! It's impossible to strike gold with every funder, so try to be patient with yourself and understand no amount of preparation or personal touches will be enough for certain funders.

However, if you notice that you are consistently not making progress with funders there may be an opportunity to improve upon your approach. Here are a few strategies to try:

1. Know your asking style - everyone has a different approach to fundraising. This quiz can help you determine what your specific style is, and offer you ways to improve you methods moving forward.

2. Involve other team members - sometimes it's helpful to have other members of your team sit on calls with you. Having a support person who is ready with program facts and statistics will keep you prepared. Just make sure you play to your team strengths!

3. Seek feedback - sometimes the best way to improve is to ask the funder directly how the call could have gone better, or what information would have helped them make their decision. Getting direct feedback is a great place to start when improving your approach with funders.

 

Conclusion

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