When we talk to nonprofit staff, one commonly recurring question is “How can we do better at grant funding?” We’ve leveraged our history and experience in the sector to gather materials for a series of articles on this topic. Our in-depth conversations with foundation and corporate program officers and a wider survey of their peers form the basis of the series. Successful grant proposals may rest on your ability to develop a relationship with your program officer. In this article, Powering Nonprofits will share perspectives of program officers on how nonprofits can inspire confidence and win mission-critical funding.
We’ve all written a great grant proposal, only to get that slim envelope with a polite rejection form letter. Did you ever learn anything about why you were declined, other than the pro forma “we received far more requests for funding than we could meet” explanation? Did you ask the program officer for feedback or suggestions on how to improve future requests? If not, why not?
Asking a program officer to share what they can about why your proposal landed in the “no” pile is a small effort with a potentially big return. Their feedback (and any related feedback from the decision-makers) can fundamentally change your future outcomes.
Obviously, not following submission protocol is cause for immediate rejection—granters receive more applications than they can realistically consider, so applications that don’t meet the submission requirements make rejection easy.
On a grant application, you must provide the requirements. In the grand scheme of things, this shows attention to detail but also evens the playing field for the number of requests foundations receive. Paul Moore, Program Officer, David Bohnett Foundation
Kara has a lifetime of success in patron engagement and fundraising in North America, and spent two years recently at Birmingham Royal Ballet building systems for engagement.