Tips for Grantseekers

At the King Foundation, we’ve reviewed more than 2,000 letters of inquiry and 1,300 proposals in the past ten years. From that experience, we offer tips to grantseekers about strengthening proposals and making the most of site visits.

Submitting a strong application

 

Whether you’re submitting a LOI or a full proposal, you can make your application stronger by following these recommendations.

Do your research

First determine if the foundation you are approaching is a good prospect. You can use foundation websites, printed directories, and subscription-based services such as the Foundation Center. A list of helpful websites is on the Grant Resources page.

Call the foundation

Try to talk to a staff member at the foundation, either by phone or in person, before you submit. Not all foundations talk to applicants in advance, but ask. At the King Foundation, we will tell you whether we believe your request is a good match, how much you might request, and when you can or should submit.

Follow instructions

Make sure you understand, and follow to the letter, the foundation’s instructions for submitting an application, especially the deadline and method for submitting. If you don’t understand what you’re being asked to submit, ask—don’t assume, or leave something out.

Focus on clients

Keep the focus in your writing on your clients, not the agency itself. Communicate what the grant will do for your clients.

Be specific

Support your request with facts and specifics. Instead of providing only your own conclusions of need, give the reader the data from which to draw the conclusions that support your case. If you’re relying on public information, such as the Census, make sure you use the most recent version available.

Provide results

Every agency should be able to answer the question, “How do we know we’re doing a good job?” The answer, and method for reaching it, will be different for every agency. But all agencies should be asking the question.

Proofread your submission

Read it. Don’t rely on spellcheck alone, because it misses many errors. Remember that an application, even if submitted electronically, is still a formal business communication. Don’t abbreviate or use symbols as you would in a text or email.

Use your space wisely

Many application forms, include the King Foundation’s, limit the length of various parts of an application. Don’t waste your “real estate” by including information (like a long historical timeline of the agency) that won’t have much influence on a funding decision.

Making the most of a site visit

 

A site visit is an in-person meeting between your agency’s leadership and a staff member of the Foundation, held at your agency’s headquarters or the site of a program. A site visit takes between one and two hours. This is your chance to ensure the visitor understands your agency and its programs.

 

Historically, the King Foundation makes a site visit to about 70% of the agencies submitting a full proposal. Receiving a site visit does not indicate that your application will be funded. If we ask for a site visit, here’s how you can use the opportunity to full advantage.

Work with us.

It is important for us to see your program in action, as well as discuss the request with you in greater detail. Help us decide on a good time to visit that both showcases your programs and provides time and space to talk.

Manage the guest list.

It’s usually important for us to talk to the head of the agency, as we typically ask questions regarding the governance and financial condition of the agency, in addition to the program or project. There is no single “right” number of people to have at a site visit. But mind the dynamics of one Foundation visitor and ten agency staff, which can be awkward.

Be courteous and attentive.

Whoever staffs your front desk should know we’re coming. During the visit, do your best to eliminate distractions like background noise, cell phones, texts, and email (and that goes for everyone in the room).

Don’t set a hard agenda.

We’ll have a number of questions about your agency, proposal, and its finances. If you try to schedule every moment of the visit, we won’t have a chance to ask those questions. Site visits run more smoothly if you do not set an agenda, have a lengthy video, or an extensive PowerPoint presentation.

Read the proposal.

Every agency representative at a site visit, including board members, should be familiar with the proposal beforehand. We will have read your proposal multiple times before we get there, so don’t waste time going over the basics of the proposal for us.

Follow up.

During the visit, we might ask for some additional information. We don’t expect you to have all the answers at your fingertips. As the visit concludes, review the list of any follow up items with us and provide them as soon as you can—preferably within a week.