Would your grant request approach make the grade?

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Charities present many grant requests to our donor board. It gives us an opportunity to better understand them and how we can help them achieve their goals. The crucial question, however, is: On presentation day, will your organization have the right approach and people to support your grant request?

Presentation techniques can make or break your grant request. Let's look at three typical scenarios.

Scenario 1 - The Cadillac: Five people enter with formal attire, high tech presentation aids, and glossy handouts. The impression at first glance is a smooth and well-funded organization. Hmmm, maybe we should ask them for a grant! Technical difficulties lead to a five-minute delay, and with four people taking turns to present, they run over their time allowance. Quickly picking up their equipment and thanking us for the opportunity, they head for the door - along with the answers to our questions.

Scenario 2 - The Unprepared: Three people enter who appear very happy to be short-listed, although they seem to be surprised in making it this far, almost to the point of being apologetic. A few minutes later we find out why; they are not prepared. The key person putting the presentation together did so the night before and it shows by lack of direction and purpose.

Scenario 3 - The KISS: One person enters and brings a 30 second video of a television advertisement explaining the purpose of the charity, four overheads capture the essence of their request and benefits to the community, and a handout reinforces the message. Finishing early we are provided an opportunity to ask questions.

We see the first two scenarios all too often. We prefer, and are more comfortable with the third. Here are eight hints for your next grant presentation:

  1. The more you know about the donor board and the organization, the better you can angle your presentation to get their support. Phone and ask questions. Very few do.
  2. There should be no more than three people - the Executive Director, a specialist, and a client to attest the value of the request - presenting your grant proposal. To have more fragments the flow and consistency of the presentation.
  3. Begin by explaining how the donor funds will be used and then discuss how they will help the community. Discussing your charity and purpose is better interwoven by telling us how the funds will benefit people. Too often presenters talk about their charity in general and then pitch the grant proposal in the last few minutes; which is quite ineffective.
  4. Be a vibrant organization, but if you appear to have vast resources at your fingertips, the board may pass you over assuming your funding can come from another source.
  5. Keep your presentation aids simple and clear.
  6. Outline tangible reasons or benefits why the board should support your grant.
  7. Finish your presentation early so the board can ask questions. This encourages two-way conversation that allows the development of rapport.
  8. Practice your presentation to your co-workers and see if you need to shorten its duration.
  9. Be prepared to discuss donor recognition opportunities. To say `we are open to all suggestions' is nice but it is up to you to tell us what you have in mind.

Before your presentation our donor board will have preconceived ideas of our choices from the short-listed applicants; this is typical. The trick is to show us your preparation and commitment when it's your opportunity to discuss your grant and partnership with us. We've often changed our minds after a good presentation.

This article appeared previously in Canadian FundRaiser.

Stephen Watson is in his third year as Chair of the BC Hydro Employees' Community Services (HYDRECS) Fund. HYDRECS will donate over $1 million to approximately 800 charities in BC and beyond this year. The HYDRECS contact, Kelly Bedford, can be reached at 604-623-3534.

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