Raise the financial support to fully execute the funding program and related organizational expenses.


It is hard to know how much time and money to invest in program development before securing support.

There are often more good ideas than resources available to support them. It’s important to understand the program’s fundraising potential before you commit to it.

Do your research first. It’s critical to do the cultivation legwork to identify good fundraising prospects. Learn as much as you can about the funder’s focus areas, typical grant size for similar investments, and grantmaking process. A potential funder may love your program, but it must also be a good fit with their funding criteria.

Often it’s good practice to develop a “one pager” before you develop the full case for support. As a program prospectus, a one pager is helpful for gauging funder interest before you invest a lot of time and money into full program development. (This work is done before full program design.)

Fundraising always takes longer than you would like. Make certain to allow adequate time to raise money. Know as much about their grant cycle as possible – from the first funder meeting and invitation to submit proposal to decision-making and disbursement.

Sometimes a program can be fully supported through one funding source. In this case, it’s most important to align the program to the funder’s goals and within their established grant cycle.

More often you will need to develop varying levels of support suitable for attracting multiple funders to the work. It is good to first secure a lead supporter for the program to provide the base of support. This is also helpful in galvanizing other supporters to join forces.

Also, consider what types of funders are most appropriate for your program. Is it more suitable to a corporate funder, private or community foundations, high net worth individual, or crowdfunding? It’s often good to have a healthy mix of funding sources.

In developing the fundraising model for your catalytic grant program be certain to budget the staff time and administrative expenses associated with operating the program. You do not want to get in a situation where your organization has to subsidize the new program.

And remember, always acknowledge your supporters! (Unless, of course, they wish not to be acknowledged.) Understanding your funders’ guidelines for acknowledgement is important. Beyond acknowledgement on printed materials or event signage, there are often good opportunities to build stronger relationships with your supporters. Think about ways for your lead supporters or donors to participate in the program as an event speaker or volunteer in program related activities.

Maintaining healthy relationships with your funder builds stronger ties to the work and can often help chart a path for ongoing support. In short, don’t just call on your funder’s when you have an ask!

Thinking Questions

  • Are there funding sources available to support this kind of grantmaking program?
  • Is your fundraising strategy resilient and diversified?
  • Are their fundraising tiers for supporters to choose from? Have you identified a lead supporter?
  • Is there a give/get for the funder, patron, donor?
  • Is there adequate time to raise monies?
  • Are all program and administrative expenses accounted for, not just the grants out?

Step-by-Step Process

One Pager

Develop a complete sketch of the program offering including overview & background, program design, timeline, and budget estimate. This allows a funder to quickly understand the program and ascertain interest and fit. Tip: a “one pager” is shorthand for this type of prospectus, but can be 11/2 to 2 pages, if that amount of space is needed to describe the program.

Funder Meeting

If you gauge that a funder has interest, ask for a call or a meeting to continue the conversation. Don’t go into that discussion without an ask in mind. Funders are in the business of giving money away and want to know what the ask of them is. Having a giving table or options (small, medium, and large) is a good way to marry their interest with your needs.

Program Proposal

If you’re invited to submit a proposal this is a promising step. Be certain to follow the funder’s proposal guidelines and submission requirements. All funders are different. Following their process and protocols is important to building a smooth grantee relationship.


A detailed program budget is the cornerstone of a good proposal. The words are important, but the dollar and cents of how you will deliver on your program goals and outcomes is key to a good proposal. Budgets must give equal thought to the revenues and expenses. It is also important for the budget to specify the use of funds that meet the funder’s interest and guidelines. For example, be mindful about what and how you intend to use their money. If they do not support capital investments or limit overhead percentages, be certain this matches your budget proposal.


Methods We Love

:heart: Ask the lead funder to lead. It’s easier for a funder to ask their colleagues for money than it is for you to. If you have a lead supporter, see if they are comfortable helping to rally others to get on board with the work. Often asking a funder to host a luncheon or send a personal letter to his/her peers is an effective fundraising strategy.

:heart: Tell compelling stories. People relate to people. Tapping into the hearts and minds in your fundraising pitch helps to create connections and illicit interest. Facts and figures matter, but stories often seal deals.

:heart: And, don’t forget to make the ask! Sometimes it’s hard to move a conversation or relationship along, but every funder knows you are looking for what they have, so just ask for it.

Alternative Approaches

:bulb: The power of crowdfunding. While it can be a long haul and tall order to raise money through the collection of small donations, it is also be a powerful way to broaden your base of support and demonstrate interest and commitment in the work.

:bulb: Matching funds create a call to action. Stepping forward with a lead supporter who is willing to match (1:1, 1:2 or 1:200 or whatever the match) can be a galvanizing event and reason to call on the community.

Cautionary Tales

:warning: Don’t go too far without the money. Sometimes you can get so excited about the work that you get ahead of the money. Be careful to bring the money along in the process. And, not allow yourself to get behind the eight ball in your fundraising tasks.

:warning: Your problems are not your funders’ problems. Of course there are always exceptions, but remember emergency funding is not a leading strategy.

:warning: Diversify, diversify, diversify. Your program should be more resilient than the generosity of one supporter. Make certain you have a healthy mix of funders and a stratified grant cycle. It is never a good idea for all your funding to run concurrently.

:warning: Don’t double promise. If you have multiple funding sources, you can not offer the same thing to all funders unless everyone is getting a pro rata share of the whole. It is okay to frame your narrative to meet a funder’s specific focus area or interest, but make certain you are knitting together one picture for all investors.

:warning: Be real. Your proposal should talk clearly about the program you wish to operate. Don’t just say things (aka grant speak) that you think the funder wants to hear. If supported, you will be on the line to deliver and then report on the program so keeping your proposal real is most advised.