Program Recap: “Building a Pipeline of Institutional Funders: A deep dive into grant programs”

Stacia Silvia Headshot
On February 11, 2021, Stacia Silvia, Director of Foundation Relations and Development Operations at MAB Community Services, shared a crash course on grants, and answered participant questions. This lunch and learn was sponsored by CCS Fundraising.

Stacia, who has over a decade of experience with institutional donors, first reviewed the basics of corporate, foundation, and government relations.

Since many participations submitted questions via a pre-event survey, Stacia then focused on areas in which the most questions were focused on.

The first topic was research. There are both free and paid resources that include manual searches and email digests. Once prospects are identified, Stacia outlined some important questions to consider before applying for funding including: is the funder is interested in your organization’s work, do they fund in your service area/geography, are the open to solicitations or only give to preselected organizations, what kind of projects do they give to, and how much the funder tends to give.

Stacia noted that 990 Forms are helpful resources when the funder has no website. She highlighted key areas to review: page 1, line 25, which lists the amount of contributions and grants given; Part XV which may list the contact person and information on how to apply if they accept solicitations; and addendums which may list grantees, awards, and gift purposes.

In terms of cultivation, Stacia noted that some funders have specific guidelines. It is worthwhile to check with your Board and leadership to see if they know staff or Trustees to help make connections. Who you know is key. Finding out if the staff is open to general communication is important, as you may be able to send information about your organization before submitting a full proposal.

Stacia shared the common application form from Philanthropy MA and recommended it as a good starting point for organizations new to grant writing. Though not all funders use this form, it’s helpful to check to see if you can answer the questions and use them to develop a template for future applications. The most time should be spent on writing about the need making sure that you explain the
macro-level need and then bring it down to how it affects your organizations’ clients. She recommends being thoughtful in creating a sense of urgency and making sure to include both quantitative and qualitative data.

Her tips include: write simple, avoid jargon, include both stories and statistics, be clear, don’t be afraid to brag about what makes your organization special, and be sure to tie your needs to the mission and goals of the foundation or funder.

Gathering common attachments is also helpful in preparing to submit applications. Attachments can range from budgets and board lists, to audited financials and 990’s. Sometimes funders will also ask for letters of support, diversity data and logic models.

Grant writing can come with a lot of rejection – some sources say that a 40% success rate is good to normal. When you received a rejection, you should see if the funder is willing to give feedback, and don’t assume it is a no forever.

If you are awarded – congratulations! But the real work starts after the award. You will need to steward your funders, though some will want contact and others will not. The grant contract may outline their expectations but you can also ask them. Touch points may include annual reports, newsletters, phone calls from leadership, and handwritten notes. You may also want to recognize your funders with ideas such as putting their logo on your website, press releases, photo ops, tours or site visits, invitations to events, and board positions.

Stacia also stressed that tracking is important, and that you should get in the habit of recording every interaction and the intent of the gifts.

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