The Funder Doesn't Really Care About Your Organization's Needs

by Rebecca Vermillion Shawver, MPA

Did the title of this article shock you? Are you thinking, she canít possibly be referring to my organizationís funders. Think again. I mean your funders (as well as everyone elseís)!

Does that sound harsh and uncaring? Thatís not my intent. The statement is simply meant to remind fund developers and proposal writers that money is seldom (if ever) donated based upon organizational needs. In fact, I have yet to encounter a donor, foundation, or government agency that is truly concerned about any organizationís ability to meet payroll, hire additional staff, pay off a deficit, build a new facility, or fund any administrative burden.

Donít get me wrong. Donors and grant-makers care about our communities and their residents. In fact, they care so much that they give millions of dollars in donations and contributions to local non-profit groups each and every year. But the most successful of fund developers and proposal writers know that they donít make these allocations based on organizational needs.

Rather, they make their funding decisions because they want to make a difference in the lives of people and the community (not meet organizational needs). They want to believe that their money will play an important role in the direct facilitation of a desired change for individuals and the community-at-large. Simply stated, they care about what your organization can do!

As professional fund developers and proposal writers, it is our job to tell potential funding partners how our organizations can and will positively impact the community. It is our job to tell them about the difference that our programs make in the lives of people and the community. It is our job to convince supporters that our organizationsí programs and services are wise financial investments.

So tell themÖ

  1. What community needs can the program help mitigate?

    Whether in solicitation materials or a grant application, potential supporters need to be told the specific needs of the community and its residents. Quantify and explain how the need was determined. Provide clear and understandable facts and data. Put the communityís need into perspective by comparing it to national, state and regional information.

  2. Why is this the time to act?

    Supporters will want to know that the program is needed NOW. Clearly explain the information on which the need for the program was based. If it is based upon particular circumstances or events, share them. Help potential contributors to understand the urgency for your programs.

  3. Why should they want to support the initiative?

    Although donor motivations differ, a great number of them contribute to a particular cause based on a desire to help people. Help potential supporters to feel a personal connection to those individuals that will be helped by your program. Encourage your potential donors to feel good about their ability to help someone else.

  4. How can the program help?

    Explain how the program will address the identified needs. Describe the positive impacts that the program will facilitate for both individual participants and the community-at-large. Tell potential donors what the program will achieve. Tell them about the programís implementation plan. Describe program components in such a way that they see the direct correlation between program activities and the anticipated outcomes. Show the relationship between the positive impacts that the program will have upon participants and the community-at-large.

  5. How will program success be measured?

    Share the programís measurable outcomes and its evaluation plan. Explain how the organization will determine that anticipated goals and outcomes have been achieved.

  6. Why should your organization be the one to provide the program?

    Build confidence in your organization by providing information about past agency accomplishments and the successful implementation of similar programs. Provide potential supporters with testimonials from clients and partnering agencies. Describe the qualifications of staff and your organizationís good standing in the community. List the community groups and agencies with which you have ongoing collaborative relationships.

As fund developers and proposal writers, it is our job to sell our organizationís ability to positively impact the community. We need our supporters to buy our programs through their donations and grant awards. So the next time you sit down to write a proposal, create a solicitation letter, plan a capital campaign, or make that one-on-one presentation, remember: The funder really doesnít care about your organizationís needs!

Rebecca Vermillion Shawver, MPA

Director of Grant Administration ~ Brazosport College ~ 500 College Drive ~ Lake Jackson, Texas 77566 ~ Office Phone: (979) 230-3313

Rebecca Vermillion Shawver is the Director of Grant Administration at Brazosport College in Lake Jackson, Texas. Her duties include assisting college administrators, faculty and staff members in the development of federal, state, corporate and private foundation grant applications; developing the conceptual aspects of proposals through the proposal review process and the analysis of statistical data; developing proposal budgets and determining personnel, equipment, and other costs to be charged to funding agencies; researching funding opportunities; conducting proposal writing workshops for college personnel; assisting project directors in monitoring funded proposals; and publishing a twice monthly grant newsletter.

Ms. Shawver is an active member of the Council for Resource Development (CRD).

Additionally, she continues to serve as a consultant for social service agencies in the State of Indiana.


 Rebecca Vermillion Shawver, MPA Photo

Copyright © 2005 Rebecca Vermillion Shawver. All rights reserved.

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