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Waiting for a windfall

Pearl and Mel Shaw

Pearl and Mel Shaw

FUNdraising Good Times

Waiting for a windfall

By Pearl and Mel Shaw

You’ve written the perfect proposal. You submitted it on time. Perhaps you carefully reviewed the guidelines and found that your organization is a perfect match for what the foundation is seeking to achieve through its grant making. Or maybe a program officer reached out and personally asked your organization to submit. Maybe your nonprofit or university has received consistent funding over the years, and you have submitted your annual request – on time, of course. But you haven’t heard a word.

You should have heard by now. The proposal guidelines gave a date for when funding decisions would be announced. That date is now in the past. Days have passed. Weeks. A month. Ninety days. What do you do?

You could send a follow up email, or place a call inquiring on the status of your proposal. That’s a straight-forward and appropriate action. Let’s say you do, and you learn “the board meeting has been pushed back” or “we haven’t made a decision yet.” Now what do you do?

    Here’s our suggestion: keep fundraising. Act as if you still have to meet your fundraising goal, even if you feel your proposal is a “sure thing” or a “slam dunk.”

For each gift or grant you are pursuing, have a “Plan B” and a “Plan C.” Here’s what we mean: if your nonprofit has submitted a grant to a foundation for $50,000 make sure you submit other proposals to other foundations or individuals in amounts that are equal to or greater than $50,000. And, don’t count each gift as if it would be received – use a 3:1 or 5:1 ratio of submitted proposals to funded proposals. Colloquially we call this “hedging your bets.” In fundraising terms we refer to this as “making sure you meet goal.” Aggressively work on alternative prospects who could give gifts or make grants equal to or greater than the gift or grant you are “waiting on.” Don’t put all your eggs in that one basket.

There is no way that every proposal you submit will result in a grant. Even if you’ve been given all the signals that “things are moving ahead.” Count only those gifts you can take to the bank.

While you can’t count money you don’t have, you can make sure you are ready to implement your proposal when the funds are received. Have you identified the personnel you need? Do you have an evaluation process in place? Has your team created a detailed project work plan to guide their activities and ensure that project goals are met on time?

Here’s the position you want to avoid: sharing with the board that you were unable to meet the organization’s fundraising goal because a certain grant “did not come through.” Hedge your bets, be aggressive, meet goal.

Copyright 2015– Mel and Pearl Shaw

Mel and Pearl Shaw position nonprofits, colleges and universities for fundraising success. For help with your fundraising visit or call (901) 522-8727.

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