What to Expect When You’re Expecting...a Foundation Site Visit That Is!
It’s been eight weeks since you spent considerable time and effort researching regional foundations and sending out eight new proposals in support of a planned educational initiative on behalf of your three-year-old community arts organization.
So when the phone rings and it’s program officer Samantha Jenson from The Smith Family Foundation to tell you that they would like to schedule a site visit, you’re quite excited. After all, if The Smith Family Foundation planned to decline your proposal, it is doubtful that they would arrange a site visit, right?
After all, you know that grant-makers like to keep in touch with the community and regularly schedule visits to programs and organizations they fund. So, your foot is in the door.
How can you to make a favorable impression on The Smith Family Foundation for future grants? Simple - just follow these simple steps for your next foundation site visit.
Do ask the foundation what their expectations are for the visit, what they’d like to see, and who they’d like to meet. If possible, arrange the visit during optimal times. If you run programs, schedule the visit for a time when participant and staff energy will be high. I once worked with an educational initiative and arranged two separate site visits for foundation representatives. Due to scheduling difficulties, one had to be held at a time when nothing was going on – just the ED, myself, a board member, the program director, the Foundation’s representative in an office. The other was scheduled during peak programming hours and the potential funder – someone we had been pursuing for several years – was impressed with the energy level and genuinely delighted to see the program in action. Aside from the resulting fully funded grant check, the funder became a passionate proponent of our work, funding our organization every year – and drawing in several other new funders!
Do try to arrange for one or two board members to attend – as well as yourself and your Executive Director. Remember that having a board member present demonstrates the trustees’ commitment to your organization and to the potential funder.
Don’t be afraid to share your challenges as well as your successes. Funders appreciate honesty. Focus on your successes but acknowledge that there are always some challenges. This will be helpful later on when you are reporting on your outcomes.
Do provide your visitors with directions to your program site. Yes, I know that everyone has a GPS these days. But be courteous and provide directions for the Foundation staff and confirm the appointment the day before.
Do have a participant representative join you. You run an educational program for teens? Bring in one of your brightest success stories. Coach them on what to expect.
Do serve light refreshments. Coffee, tea, water, fruit, pastries. You are welcoming the foundation officers into your nonprofit’s home – be welcoming and gracious.
Do relax! Remember that if The Smith Family Foundation has gone to the trouble of arranging an on-site visit, chances are that they are intrigued by your organization and want to learn more.
Follow up with a thank-you letter expressing your appreciation for their time and trouble. It should be signed by your ED or a board member. And remember to congratulate yourselves! You’ve just launched the first step in a wonderful relationship with a brand new funder.
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