Lecture 2. Do the research - Narrow the field
Once you know specifically what you want, move onto the next stage. Research.

Be thorough. Think of everything you need to learn about.

These questions could be:

  • The geographical spread of the awards
  • The themes they fund
  • The financial amounts they have awarded
  • The frequency of calls for applications
  • The ratio of winning proposals versus applications
  • The legal structures they tend to fund
  • Key contact names and details
  • Etc.

Then develop a table that will capture all of these questions. Put the donors down the vertical column and your questions along the top horizontal line. Think of this like a price comparison website. The format needs to be something that asks the right questions and show you clearly the advantages of one donor over another.

You can outsource this work to a consultant, or an intern. If you chose to do this work yourself, start with websites. Cut and paste the information from each donor that you need to collect on your table.

But also look at two additional sections. First look at any pages that mention partners. Here you may find other organisations that you have not heard about before. Following this trail can come up with some exciting and unexpected finds.

Also see if there’s any news pages, blogs or annual reports. It’s in these pages where you will find hints about priorities for the future, as well as programmes that are in the process of closing down.

Save this information also. You will need these key quotes, or vague statements for when you finally speak to the donors. Knowing the latest news will show the donors that you have done your homework.

When you seem to have reached the end of your search. Leave the data for a few days and return to it with a fresh mind.

At this point it may be worth speaking to people about what you have read. Not all donor websites are up to date or very clear. Try and see if there is a third party that you can speak to (maybe an organization who has received funding from that donor in the past, or a former employee). Ask them about the politics and recent history of the organization. Here you may find out that eastern Europe is not a priority – even though their website claims it is, or that a new director has just come on board with a passion for the region and will announce that they will increase funding in the next year. This kind of knowledge gives you the edge on others.

You could also contact the donor directly, but be cautious at this stage. Stick to very general questions, based on your research. Don’t pitch ideas at this stage.

Next you need to prioritise the organisations with whom you think you have the highest chances. This will be organisations that like and support the kinds of things that you have done, or plan to do.

You can do this by adding a scoring system or a green tick and red cross system, or a traffic light system to your chart. Re-order the rows with all of the most suitable donors at the top.

Ideally you should target the three top–scorers. Focus on them for a year. Move on to the others later.

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