Grant seeking is a distinct form of fundraising – one that can seem like a complete mystery. That’s why I asked Diane H. Leonard to share some tips. She’s not only written grants, she’s successfully helped others write them. More importantly, she’s even worked in a foundation that gave out grants. She has seen it all. And she knows what works. Diane is on Twitter @dianehleonard. She goes into much more detail in The Nonprofit Academy training Tips & Tricks from the Foundation Side of Grant Seeking.

Tips & Tricks from the Foundation Side of Grant Seeking

Diane H Leonard on grant seeking tips
By , GPC

Most grant professionals have a winding story for how they became a “grant writer.” My story started as the Program Office for the Michigan Women’s Foundation. Being a program officer was a HUGE part of my “story” for why I work on the grant seeking side and why I founded DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services back at the beginning of 2006, but many people don’t know that. The lessons I learned sitting in the chair of a program officer and working with peers in the grant making field from The Kresge Foundation, The Community Foundation of Southeastern Michigan, The Nokomis Foundation and the like have forever shaped my approach to grant seeking.

The lessons I learned defined my approach that nonprofit capacity building and ultimately an organization’s grant readiness is a critical aspect of each and every grant application.

Here are the top lessons I learned that I apply to my grant seeking work on a daily basis to help YOU strengthen your grant seeking.

Four Lessons Learned When I Was a Program Officer

  1. Building Relationships Is a Critical Part of Grant Seeking/Grant Making

    Building relationships is a critical part of grant seeking. The reason I talk so much about the “3 R’s of Grant Seeking” (Research, Relationships and wRiting) is in part because relationships help program officers have a strong sense of the work the foundation grantees are doing and report on the activities to their grant making committees and board members.

  2. Do Your Homework

    If you are going to reach out to a program officer, do your homework, be prepared for your conversation, phone call, or email dialogue. Be prepared with talking points that ideally include:

    • A brief introduction of who you are/what group you are with;
    • Why *YOU* think based on your research that your organization/project is a good fit for the foundation’s priorities; and
    • What questions you have about the process based on your thorough research of their published materials so that you can be as competitive in their process as possible.
  3. Pick Up The Phone

    This could also be called, “don’t hide behind email.” Go old school and pick up the phone.
    Now the exception to this is when a foundation or other grant making organization specifically says that phone calls are not welcome. In that case, respect their process and their wishes and follow their allowed communication channels for pre-award conversation if any are available.

  4. Ask for Feedback…After Each Proposal Whether Denied or Funded

    Whether you receive a grant award or are denied, you should ask the program officer with the foundation for feedback on your proposal.

These will help you get your grant seeking on track. I dig into in more detail in my session for The Nonprofit Academy at

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