Engaging Foundations that Don’t Accept Unsolicited Proposals

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It’s frustrating when you’re a CSO trying to raise funds and the foundations you wish to apply to only accept proposals by invitation. As the Philanthropy Roundtable explains, foundations sometimes do this because of the administrative burden on foundation staff to process them and, conversely, the CSO’s burden of preparing proposals that won’t be considered. Others are simply not looking for new grantees as much as ensuring the capacity and sustainability of their existing grantees, especially limited-life foundations approaching the end of their grantmaking.

However, when you cannot apply for funds, you can at least promote the content of your work through marketing and communications to familiarize foundation grantmaking staff with your value. Even if you don’t receive an invitation to submit a proposal, you’ll be starting practices that may help with other, invite-only funders and other audiences in the future. For example, the Roundtable suggests:

• If you produce a newsletter, add the foundation to your list of recipients
• Bolster your social media presence with excellent content (including any news coverage received) to connect with funders there
• Attend events where you can meet foundation staff and follow up with any relevant materials created by your organization
• If your existing donors promote your impact on their websites, ensure that information is current
• In the case of a foundation that accepts letters of inquiry (LOI), ensure you're eligible and aligned with their mission and the work they already fund before applying
• In your LOI, link your services and impact to their strategic priorities and ask how your CSO might obtain support in the future

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