EC Conversation Pieces
Global Roundtable and Emerging Church Seminar

How To Ask Foundations for Money

Today I am writing up some proposals that i will be presenting to a number of Foundations when i am back in USA next month (Aug 21-25). This kind of thing really wears me out but its a necessary part of mission work and getting the job done. My previous mode of working was to ignore the Foundations and do everything without money as much as I could. But Donors also want to play a part in the Great Commission. Especially the more exciting stuff that I have been involved in this past decade -the mission of God in the global emerging culture - and I have a responsibility to make space in the playground for them also.

As far as writing up proposals go, I have no natural tendencies or gifts in this area [and Puh-leeeze dont bombard with me emails] but I have been taught by the best. On a number of occasions, I have sat under the Proposal Guru Dr Steve Steele (ex-DAWN, now Global Strategist for the Maclellan Foundation) and jotted down notes on how to partner with donors in a way that benefits both parties. In fact, I went through this again last week in London at a special meeting I organized for some emerging culture leaders from around Europe and some representatives from Maclellan Foundation - Lee Behar and Steve Steele. I didn't blog on this meeting, and probably wont, but towards the end of our meeting I asked Dr Steele to give some advice to the group on approaching American Foundations for their projects. He smiled and began to talk and our pens came out and notes were frantically taken and when Steve had finished, there was a suspended hush, a religious silence, a monumental awe-filled appreciation of BIBLICAL proportions!

I wouldn't broadcast all his secrets in a blog post [he really should write a book] but I will pass on a few snippets of wisdom that I know he wouldn't mind me sharing. If you find yourself in a position where you need to raise support for mission projects, and you want advice from a Master, then read on . . .

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The best proposals are those that connect the dots, make sense financially, and have an impact that lasts much longer than the grant. Donors shy away from creating dependence, but like to accelerate a process and leverage ministry situations to be even more fruitful.  The question is not "how much can i do in ministry" but rather "how much can i get done" - you should be training others for ministry and to take your place. Donors do not want to pay salaries because that creates dependance. Donors would rather give a percentage of the total amount. Less than 25% of the overall budget is good and it reduces paperwork due to government legislation.

Its better to build a relationship slowly with a donor. A "cheap date" (Lee used that phrase) kind of grant might work one year and the next year, after the relationship is stronger and the results from the small grant are satisfactory, you could ask for a larger amount.
How much? Probably more than $10,000 and less then $75,000. The 20-25k range is best and you can go from there.

Your proposal should consist of a 1-2 page executive summary and a 1-2 page outline of the ministry opportunity and expected outcomes. Measurement of success is usually up to you and how you will measure it. But its important that you know what measurement criteria exist and communicate that. And be honest when time comes to report back. Donors are smart people and also understanding. If parts of the project fail, let them know. And don't wait until the end of the project before reporting. Regular reports and updates are the best way to go [ooops .. .  i am preaching to myself here . . . and getting convicted]

Many Foundations have decent websites and even online forms to fill out that meet their requirements. Dont forget that you are a ministry to them - you feed them information that is vital and helps them make decisions in many areas. You also create a space for them to participate in giving what God has given them.

You will find, as I have, that wealthy donors and the folk from Foundations are usually very approachable and warm. They have big hearts but they are also street smart and like to see their investment given wisely and in a way that produces great things. They are not as 'nostalgic' as denominations and dont want to see their money misspent. So do them a favor and create a GREAT project and a GREAT proposal. Go ahead and MAKE THEIR DAY!

OK - Dr Steele didnt say that last part. Clint Eastwood did. But you get the point.

As for me and my thoughts on this matter . . .  my one addition to Dr Steele's advice is this: Don't ever say "Show Me The Money!" in your proposal, despite its tremendous comedic potential. Jerry Macquire and your proposal do not mix. So . .. Must not, Must not say "Show Me the Money! And no . ..  i am not speaking from experience.

Anyway, now I have to get down to the nitty gritty and write out some of these proposals. Ahhhh .. .  PAPERWORK . .. ummmmm . . . unless, of course, I can find another worthy diversion . . .