Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

Telephone tips to engage your Funders

NancyVic Author: Nancy Vaughan

Communication is a powerful tool, and the telephone is the ideal vehicle to open the lines of communication with your funder. The number one rule of engaging with funders is to ring (wherever possible) before you start writing the application.

Some grant-seekers become quite anxious at the thought of picking up the phone and calling a funder. Here are some tips to help you feel prepared and confident in your next funder phone call.

Preparing for your phone call

Most important tip – read the Grant Guidelines before you make the phone call.

First impressions count, and you want to impress that you have committed time to understand the funding criteria and have qualified the project you wish to discuss. Don’t waste time asking questions that are answered in the guidelines! 

* Know your own organisation and project/s. Be able to answer the questions they may ask.

* Know of any past support they have given to your organisation and acknowledge the difference that support made.

* Prepare your questions in advance. It can be easy to forget what you wanted to ask the funder once you get them on the line.

* Call from a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.

During the phone callTelephoneTipsImage

* Introduce yourself and your organisation. State up front the purpose of your call.

* Check if they are available to talk, before launching into your questions.

* Speak clearly, slowly and stick to the point. If you are feeling nervous about the call, rehearse it with a colleague.

* Be professional. It can be easy to overstep the line by becoming over friendly or using too much humour, especially when you are a little nervous. You both have a job to do, so keep your approach courteous and professional.

* Take notes and seek clarification of any points you are still not clear about.

* Adhere to the advice given. LISTEN to what the Funder says as well as what they DON’T say. Are they asking a lot of questions about your project? This would generally indicate a reasonable level of interest. ​

* It is OK to end by asking if they think your project would be of interest to the trustees. They may or may not give a clear answer but it’s not uncommon for a funder to advise if they don’t think the time is right for your application. Disappointing but a HUGE time saver and allows you to focus on other opportunities.

After the phone call

* If you have the Funders email, send a brief thank you for their time and confirm the outcome ie: “we look forward to submitting our application” or “thank you for your advice that an application at this time is not right for us.”

* Update GEMS or your organisation’s CRM system with relevant information to ensure the conversation details are recorded – this is a crucial part of effectively managing any donor relationship.

Remember, Funders are people too. Be prepared, be honest, be professional and be thankful for their time and advice.