October 22, 2018
 
Insider’s Tips to Winning Foundation Funds Is a Worthy Read

Just as one wouldn’t go into battle unarmed, nonprofits seeking foundation grants need to prepare themselves, and a way to do that is to read, understand, and fully absorb The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants.

This newly published book by Martin Teitel, a veteran foundation CEO, including 12 years at Boston’s Cedar Tree Foundation, may well come to be regarded as must-reading by nonprofits that want to succeed in the foundation grant game.

Not only is the writing clear and lucid, but the advice is pointed and without artifice of any kind.

Teitel sets the tone when he writes, “Fundraising is like what dating in high school was for many of us: hard work intertwined with great risk and continual rejection. It will go better if you can find a way not to take it personally.”

He then delves into the nuts and bolts of seeking those grants. For example, your goal in writing a letter of inquiry is to have a proposal invited. Therefore, make sure every single word in your letter supports that goal. Then, when crafting proposals:
  • Present solutions, not problems: Aim “to inspire with a vision and impress with a credible action plan.
  • Write clearly: “Save the purple prose for that novel chronicling your fundraising angst.”
  • Don’t threaten the funder: When following up on a proposal, don't hold the funder responsible for fixing the problem you want to address.
Beyond the specifics of approaching foundations, Teitel identifies and debunks six myths about foundations. The insights provided is an education in itself that makes the book worth studying.

Myth: “It’s fine to embellish – everybody does it.” Teitel understands that the pressure to bring in funds can, and does, lead some grant seekers to embellish in their zeal to appear more distinctive and more innovative. He flatly advises not to do it. But he also recognizes that funders themselves share responsibility.

He writes, “I know the funding community can make it hard for new small groups to emerge. We place lots of obstacles in the path of innovative or experimental projects. Many funders see their career path as resting on an endless string of undeniably successful grants.”

It’s this level of candor which reassures the reader that someone out there understands the nature of the grant fundraising world, and is offering not only a sympathetic ear, but also a helpful hand.

Teitel never lets up. He concludes this 188-page treasure trove by posing, and answering, a number of critical questions fund seekers often have. For instance, will including a discussion of your organization’s vulnerabilities in your proposal be used against you?

“Absolutely,” he says, but then adds, “The key is to show that your organization is solidly grounded and learns from past mistakes.”

Those looking to win foundation support, whether they are novice or experienced grant seekers, owe it to themselves to read this book.

The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants is available from Emerson & Church, Publishers.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy
August 2012


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