Increasingly, the foundation world is becoming more and more accessible, and grantwriters are now finding opportunities to converse with grant officers for a variety of reasons not available a decade ago. We all know that instead of sending boiler plate proposals to every foundation in the directory (or online database), it's always a good idea to make personal calls to grant makers before submitting proposals. Some funders, especially those that have funded your organization in the past or are considering a current request, are also amenable to face-to-face meetings with your senior leadership. Beyond the immediate proposal, here are some questions to ask if you ever meet a foundation officer:
What are you looking for in a grant seeker? What are some characteristics of the nonprofit you would like to fund?
What do you think our organization's role in the field can and should be? How can we help you as a grantmaker achieve your goals?
After going through our proposal, do you feel that our mission is aligned with our programs and services?
Now that I have explained our scope of activities to you, what can my organization be doing better in terms of service delivery?
How can we improve our outcome measurement system to improve our future performance?
How can we safely and efficiently build capacity? What would you suggest we consider as we grow and expand?
Are there any other organizations you would like us to work with in the achievement of common objectives?
Yes, these questions may seem rather philosophical when all you really want to ask is "will you please fund our proposal?" but remember that funders are looking for long-term relationships. As such they always appreciate inquiries that show an organization wishing to move beyond the quick fix. Questions such as the ones above show that you are willing to work hard and improve your organization for the sake of its constituents, and the answers a foundation officer can provide may be invaluable in that regard. Just make sure you don't discuss these issues before an application deadline... an off-season is a far better time to approach foundations for this purpose.