A Halloween Story: Turn Meetings With Funders From Scary To Successful

A Halloween Story: Turn Meetings With Funders From Scary To Successful

Jimmy was seven and had heard stories for years about the scary old man on Sycamore Street. It was Halloween night, and Jimmy and his friends stood at the end of the long driveway leading up to the old man’s run down house.

“I dare you to ring his bell Jimmy”, said Stewy, always looking to stir up trouble. “I’m not going up there,” Jimmy said. “Did you hear about the last kid that tried to get candy from old man Marley? He disappeared. Never found.”

Maybe it was because it was Halloween, but the place seemed scarier than it ever had before. There was a part of Jimmy that really wanted to go and see if the old man was as scary as everyone had said. He didn’t want to believe the urban legend. He didn’t want his fear to stop him from trying. But he couldn’t bring himself to walk up the driveway. Stewy pushed him, made fun of him, and taunted Jimmy the rest of the night, but Jimmy just wouldn’t go.

Sometimes Grant Writers See Funders Like Jimmy Saw “Old Man Marley”

Have you ever wanted to connect with a funder but fear or a lack of confidence or knowledge kept you from going? Maybe you understand Jimmy’s paralysis. Maybe you have metaphorically stood at the end of a funder’s driveway, wanting to connect, but doubt and uncertainty have held you back.

If you’re you unsure about how to set up a meeting with a funder, you can use our Email Contact Template for Funders. It has the exact, word-for-word script you can use to get funders to say ‘yes’ to your request for a meeting.

At GrantsEdge we know that funders are amazing, and that they desperately want to find incredible organizations to invest their funding dollars. And we want you to know that funders shouldn’t seem “scary” at all. We don’t want you intimidated by them, or feeling like you can’t connect. Although some may not be open to meeting, or may not have the time to formally connect, many funders are very open to taking some time to speak with you.

You need to have the courage to “walk up the driveway,” knock on the door, and look for opportunities to get candy…err…build relationship and get your questions answered

But what do you do when they answer the door and ask you to come inside? What does a meeting with a funder look like? What kinds of questions can I ask? How can I best take advantage of this opportunity?

Three Ideas You Should Consider To Ensure Your Meeting With A Funder Goes Well.

Friendly reminder: Be sure to prepare. Read through a funder’s website. Understand their purpose, and be sure you don’t ask any questions that can be easily answered by reading their application guide or through a little bit of research. Don’t be lazy.

  • Idea #1 For A Great Funder Meeting – Prepare A Concept Paper

    The whole idea of a concept paper is to capture the interest of the funding agency and demonstrate that your idea is worthy of further consideration and funding. The beauty of bringing a concept, or better yet, sending your concept paper in advance of the meeting, is that this will provide you with the opportunity to gain some feedback regarding the value of your project and potential proposal.

    The best concept paper is one to two pages in length, and doesn’t overwhelm the funder with unnecessary details, but provides a high level overview of your project and its eventual impact. This can be the basis for your meeting, and the funder feedback will give you lots to consider and work with when you get back to the office.

    In preparing for the meeting, you may also want to prepare a 30 or 60 second “pitch” so that you can verbally communicate your idea in a concise and engaging way. Practice it out loud before you go so that you know what it sounds like before you ever say it to a funder. It always sounds much better in your head than it does out loud, so trust us, don’t make the first time you say your pitch be in front of the funder.

    Want a FREE resource? For a Concept Paper Outline, click here.

  • Idea #2 For A Great Funder Meeting – Listen More Than You Talk

    You’ve likely heard the saying, “You have two ears and one mouth so that you can listen twice as much.” Epictus said that, and he was right (you have no idea who Epictus is, do you?).

    Answer questions when asked, but the purpose of this meeting is to hear what the funder has to say. You want to learn as much from them as possible, and it will be hard to do that if you are the one doing all the talking. Plan to have a pen and paper with you so that you can take notes and remind yourself of the advice that has been shared throughout the meeting.

    Also, work hard to not go on the defensive. Funders have told us stories of grant writers quickly saying, “that won’t work” or “we tried that once before” and in the process have completely shut down the conversation or made the funder feel like any advice or counsel they might give will be falling on deaf ears.

    By listening more and talking less, the funder will feel understood and cared about, you will have the opportunity to gain an insider perspective, and you’ll be sure to not say anything you’ll regret later.

  • Idea #3 For A Great Funder Meeting – Ask Good Questions

    The more questions you ask, the more answers you will receive. It seems simple, and yet too many fail to ask questions at all.

    By asking funders good questions, grant writers will gain deeper insights and have the information needed to develop more innovative solutions to their programs and their grant application. Asking smart questions will also go a long way toward solidifying a positive impression with the funder while also giving you valuable information to consider as you prepare to write your grant application.

    A few questions to consider asking a funder include:

    • Does our program fall within your current priorities?
    • What recommendations could you give for how we might make our application or project most effective?
    • Do you have any suggestions for others we might involve in a project of this kind?
    • What is one thing we can do to make this process better for you?
    • What are some common reasons for proposal rejections?

    A question you should never ask:

    • Can you rate my chances for obtaining funding?

    Don’t ever put a funder in a position to have to answer that question. It has the potential to make someone feel uncomfortable. If you listen well enough to the answers of your other questions, you should know everything there is to know about your chances of getting funding.


Be sure to send a thank you once you have returned to the office. Let the funder know that their time was valuable, and how you plan to implement their advice.

If the funder asked you a question that you were unable to answer during your meeting, be sure to take some time in your follow up to provide some insight for them.

Don’t Be Like Jimmy

Don’t be afraid to approach funders. Don’t sit at the end of the driveway wondering if it is safe to approach the front door. Approach funders, set up meetings, and implement the ideas shared here to ensure you leave those meetings with value information that will enhance your chances of success.

Having meetings with potential funders will become one of the most important factors of success in your grant writing. You may just start the beginning of a relationship that is the key to impacting your community.

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