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Five Ways to Connect with Grant Makers


by Steve Yoder, Community Development Regional Educator, Purdue Extension 


Most grant applications can now be completed online with little, if any, personal interaction between the grant seeker and the grant funder. Applicants can conduct research, draft a proposal, and submit their request without ever having to pick up the phone or meet the funder in person.  

However, for many grant-makers and grant writers, building a relationship before, during, and after the application process can be mutually beneficial. This can allow the more intangible aspects of the grant writing cycle, such as establishing trust and improving the flow of communication, to develop over time. 

On Day 2 of Purdue Extension’s Beginner’s Guide to Grant Writing workshop, the focus shifts from grant writing to relationship building. One question that often comes up is, “How do you initiate contact with a funder before you’ve submitted your proposal?”  Over the years, workshop participants have helped answer that question by sharing their experiences working with funders. Their suggestions include: 

  1. Make an appointment in person to talk to a director or program officer.
  2. Speak with someone on the phone about your grant idea.
  3. Attend a funder’s online seminar or training about their grant program.
  4. Ask clarifying questions about the RFP (request for proposals) or application.
  5. Invite the grant-maker to your organization for a site visit.

Approaching staff members or designated contacts for a funder is typically appropriate. However, discussing your proposal ideas with board members may be inappropriate, especially if the board member is also a reviewer. Whomever you contact, remember that most funding organizations gladly welcome inquiries seeking guidance or clarification because, ultimately, they want to review high-quality grant proposals.

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