4 telltale signs of a healthy grants program

As strategic fundraisers, we tend to focus on what's not working rather than what is. When monetary goals fall short or we don't get as many proposals out the door as we had hoped, we obsess over how to remedy these stats in the next quarter or fiscal year. We may even worry that we're not actually doing a good job. 

Well, I'd like to give you foundation relations professionals a boost today! For a brief moment, let's focus on what is working in a healthy foundation relations operation. After all, hard numbers may not always accurately represent your hard work; sometimes, the following items signify a job well done:

1. You find yourself balancing proposal deadlines with report deadlines. You're not only seeking new or renewed grants but you've also successfully raised foundation funds in the past, hence your submission of progress reports. Way to go!

2. You're constantly on the lookout for new grant opportunities. Your prospect research antennae are always up. You've subscribed to select RFP bulletins and foundations' e-newsletters to keep close tabs on awards coming down the pike. You (or your prospect research colleague) feels like an FDO superuser. Rock on. 

3. Colleagues know you're the go-to person for updated, clear and detailed information about your nonprofit and its key programs. An events manager desperately needs a one pager on your org's history: check. Your major gifts colleague is looking for a new program's goals and objectives: boom. The marketing team isn't sure of your tax id # or what the heck a 990 is: no sweat. 

4. "Emails, phone calls and letters" is your middle name. You strategically reach out to foundations that align well with your nonprofit--and you do so in a way that follows each foundation's specific preferences for contact. When your CDO says, "Get me a meeting with Atlantic Philanthropies," you tactfully explain why this is not possible, and you provide data that supports your counsel. You're ambitious and proactive but you play by the foundation's rules. Nicely done!

What other positive non-metrics do you look for in your foundation fundraising operation?

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