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Tips for Private Foundation Fundraising from JC Geever

Today’s podcast episode features Jane Geever, expert fundraiser and grant writer. Check out this week's episode for tips on private foundation fundraising.

Here are some highlights:

Jane on changes in the institutional fundraising world: One of the key things that I'm concerned about is the fact that grant makers are taking time off from nonprofits. So we've seen this happen with almost all the major grantors in New York City where you will have been funded for years and all of a sudden the grantmaker says you have to take a year off or two years off. Sometimes that's communicated very thoroughly. Most times it is not. And it's hard to deal with because frequently these are big grants and it's hard to replace them. Jane on getting funded: You really have to be persistent and it could take a year before an organization starts to see results from grantwriting. So that means carefully identifying the grantmakers and really being persistent in the outreach and not stopping at one or two no's. Because once you get a “Yes” you could be funded for 10 or 15 years or you could be funded periodically for a whole lot longer than that. So it's worth knocking on the door. Jane on good proposals: Number one, the proposal has to be short enough and it has to be focused on the project. It's shocking how many organizations want to focus on the organization, to the detriment of the project. Proposals should be brief, avoid jargon, and have a budget that's reflective of what the project is all about. Jane on finding funders: There are a lot of grantmakers who have an online presence on the web and- where they don't-you can use the Foundation Center's directory online called FDO. The Foundation directory online is really worthwhile because you get a very good sense from looking at the grantmakers 990 of who they're funding. You want to look for a similar organization with a similar project or at least in the same category to say that this is a funder that we should be pursuing. Once you've got that, then follow their guidelines Jane on cultivating a grantmaker: Once the proposal is out the door, whenever possible, there should be interaction from the staff of the organization with the grantmaker. You should include a follow up to make sure they've received the proposal and a little pushing for an appointment. Most grantmakers have a due diligence process.  Once the proposal is in the door, they are going to do their own due diligence and they want time to do that. But once they've done that, then they're amenable to an appointment if they think they're going to fund you because said it's a good use of their time. So use that appointment well! In the interim, continue to be in communication with them and send them things that make sense. You're developing a relationship and I think people forget that it's a relationship that includes getting to know grantmakers as people and making their job easier as well as helping your nonprofit get the dollars in the door to do good work. Jane on her pet peeves: Absolutely knowing when the report is due and not forgetting it! The biggest frustration from grantmakers is when someone they've taken a risk on doesn’t send the report. The grantmakers complain that you never tell us what you do with our money. It’s important to make sure the report is in and also knowing from the grantmaker when you can come back and ask for more money. I think a big mistake is when you you do the report and you say “Well wasn't that nice.” You want a relationship here you don't want to just drop it. You want to keep stewarding the relationship and you want to go back and ask for more money. Jane on where to spend your fundraising time: My bias is the institutional because it’s pretty clear that are foundations and corporations are going to make grants. The studies show that there is less time invested in institutional and more returns for the time that is invested which is really amazing. Secondly, usually smaller organizations don't have an individual donor constituency but if there is an individual constituency that has affluence then you're reaching out to those individuals because 80% of all the money given is given by individuals nationally. Historically, corporate giving has not been very high. It's when you look against foundations and individuals it's been about 4% which is pretty poor. And it's gone down in the U.S. because of all the purchase of U.S. companies outside the U.S. Jane on the right revenue mix: If you can meet the mark that happens nationally which is 80% of the money coming from individuals followed by about 15 % from foundations and 5% corporations, that would be fabulous. I don't see very many organizations that actually meet that. Usually it's much more like 50% from foundations and maybe a couple of percentage points from corporations and individuals coming in through events. I would put so much more emphasis on the direct individual solicitation, followed by the annual appeal. Jane on finding private individual foundations: Very few private family foundations are going to have websites. Do searches in your geographic area on the foundation directory online which is possible to do and the list will be arrayed largest donors to smallest. So you're going to see a lot of donors that you don't know because they're family foundations. The amount of money that has gone into foundations over the last couple of years has been extraordinary. As a matter of fact, the end of 2017 saw more money going into people's individual foundations than ever before because people had no idea what would happen in terms of taxes. So the one thing you can do to find information of somebody who has a private foundation is that is an open access foundation can be researched. If you see, for example, as part of their giving that they put they gave 20 million dollars to Schwab it’s a pretty good indication that they have a private family foundation. 

For more information about JC Geever, please visit: jcgeever.com/

To hear the full podcast episode with Jane, click here

To purchase the Guide to Proposal Writing:

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