Insights and Takeaways from a Grant Committee Member

Photo of Corinne Fiagome

Guest Author: Corinne Fiagome, M.P.P

Last fall, I was invited to sit on the grant committee for the Children’s Fund at North Texas Community Foundation. NTCF convened a group of five community members, including myself, to help them decide on the distribution of more than $150,000 as part of the grant cycle.

It was an experience that deepened my belief in the importance of meaningful communication between nonprofit organizations and funders to best identify and meet community needs.

Here are 3 takeaways from my grantmaking experience that I want to highlight for fellow grant seekers when communicating with funders.

1. If your organization is a good fit for a grant, show how it is the best fit. Our community has many nonprofit organizations with important missions, and several organizations may have similar missions. Marry that fact with this truism: even a large foundation has a limit to its funding capacity. So, grantmakers must make funding decisions – often between applications from several good organizations. Make your organization stand out.

2. Respect the funders’ interests, values, and goals. As grant seekers, we must take the time to get to know our current and potential funders. Done as standard practice by a nonprofit organization, this time investment provides significant returns – allowing nonprofit leaders and development staff to focus your fundraising energies on building relationships with funding partners with whom you are in true, strategic alignment in pursuit of shared goals. Dive deep and be able to communicate the commonalities or differences between your organization’s and the funder’s interests and values (for example, geographic and issue focus) to the systemic (for example, DEI policies and practices).

3. Clearly and realistically state the community needs your organization addresses and what your organization needs to succeed. Share evidence of efficient and effective use of resources, maximizing impact. For example, if your organization receives $X funds, how many more clients will you be able to reach and how will their lives be improved? At the same time, be honest about challenges your organization faces and outcomes that didn’t turn out like you wanted. Show that your organization can learn from setbacks and is doing the continuous work to serve the community better.

Next time you prepare a grant proposal, presentation, or other funder communication, try reviewing your draft from the prospective funder’s perspective. In doing so, you may find a way to make your communication more meaningful to them and conducive to the development of your partnership.

Corinne Fiagome, M.P.P is a Senior Consultant at Project Partners, Inc. She has 20 years of experience in fundraising, policy research and analysis, program design and evaluation, and communications.


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