by David Aft

Each year, the Community Foundation receives a variety of grant requests, each making the case for an organization or program that seeks to make our piece of Northwest Georgia a little better. The variety of requests is often astounding, as charitable and civic groups compete for grants in an environment where there are always more needs than resources. We receive financial requests that often exceed our granting capacity by five or six times (about $500,000 in requests for every $100,000 in grants). The decisions are difficult, as most requests address important issues and the majority of applicants are able and passionate about their work.

I am quickly approaching thirty years in the nonprofit business and a portion of my work during this time has involved making grants or working with organizations to refine their fundraising pitch and capital campaign strategies, and I have learned a little bit about what makes these efforts successful. There are a few very simple rules organizations can follow to increase their batting average and help build stronger funding and non-funding relationships with key donors and prospective advocates.

Rule #1—Keep It Simple

Develop a concise case for support that includes a simple statement of purpose and the manner in which your organization or program will make a difference. All too often, those seeking funds overwhelm potential donors with too much information. After a while, it’s difficult to separate the narrative and supporting material from the ask. Keep it simple, straightforward and focused. Tell us what you hope to accomplish and how we can help. Be specific.

Rule #2—Seek Balance

Make sure your request balances the emotional aspects of your appeal with the business elements of your plan. Research shows that people give to charities for a variety of reasons, but two of the most important are a belief in the project and its goals, coupled with a level of confidence that the organization requesting the funds has the ability to make good on their goals.

Rule #3—Follow Instructions and Answer Every Question

Make sure you provide the information requested. This is key whether you are approaching a foundation, wealthy benefactor, or your cousin Fred. Too many times, those requesting support overlook the fact that their request is probably not the only one being made and that they can improve their chances by delivering a complete application—or ask—prior to the deadline. Be direct, follow the rules, and don’t color too far outside the lines.

By following these three, simple rules, your proposal will most likely survive the first “cut” and stay in consideration for support.

David Aft is the president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. He has worked in the nonprofit field for over twenty-five years and is a recognized resource and noted speaker on charitable enterprise, civics, fundraising strategy and community development.