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Comprehensive Fundraising: A Key Ingredient for Securing Private Grants

May 22, 2018 
By Bentonne Snay, guest blogger

Are private foundation grants part of your nonprofit organization’s broad-based fundraising plan? If so, would you like to attract more and larger private grant awards?

If you are not already applying for private foundation grants, would you like to know how to obtain private grant awards?

Here you will find a few important things to help you achieve your fundraising goals.

One reason to add private grants to your comprehensive fundraising approach is that private foundation grants - unlike government grants - often require only one final report to ensure the grantor that you accomplished the objectives set forth in your grant proposal and spent their funds as promised.

However, private foundations are increasingly accepting grant requests only from organizations they have invited to apply. In fact, The Snay Group recently conducted prospect research to identify potential grant opportunities for 19 nonprofit organizations. Between June 2016 and February 2018, we found that 31% to 74% or an average of 50% of all 1,000+ foundations identified as having interests and funding types matching our nonprofit clients did not accept unsolicited applications.

Without a prior relationship, most private foundations are unlikely to invite an application, despite a well-crafted letter of inquiry. They are also unlikely to respond to an application requesting funding, regardless of the organization’s accomplishments or programs, even when it seemingly matches the foundation’s interests or priorities perfectly. This is because what differentiates one organization’s proposal from another’s might not be their programming, but their board members. Even when foundations accept unsolicited applications, board connections are important and can provide the edge needed to win a grant award despite competition with many nonprofits seeking limited grant funds.

In her Blog: Fundraising for Nonprofits, Lynn deLearie states that a client determined that 75% of their proposals to new prospective foundations that had a connection to their board were funded as compared to only 35% of proposals without a board connection receiving grant awards (deLearie, Lynn, Cultivating the Grantor, Part 1,

The importance of an engaged board of directors that recognizes its importance in the grants process is fundamental to a nonprofit organization’s success in obtaining private grant awards. Most boards are comprised of individuals who have skills and connections that are beneficial to their organization. These individuals choose to be on the board because they value the organization’s mission and work and are willing to advocate on its behalf. The board members for your organization are probably the same.

Unfortunately, board members are often recruited without being informed of the organization’s expectations about their roles and responsibilities, especially regarding fundraising. Other times, they know what is expected but are not given the proper support and training to effectively raise funds for the nonprofit organization.

As a result, board members may lose their enthusiasm for the organization. This disengagement can lead to board members’ complacency and reluctance or refusal to assist with fundraising, including making connections with private foundations. In either case, the organization’s ability to secure private grants will be limited.

To prevent this, you can take the following steps can avoid or mitigate potential board disengagement:


Clarify the role of board members. Sometimes board members are not well informed about what is expected of them. Other times, board members and executive staff do not agree on the role of the board. Staff and board members must address this discrepancy to come to an agreement on the board’s expected role in the organization. Both these situations can be remedied with the provision of a written Board Member Job Description. If interested, please email [email protected] for a digital copy of a Board Member Job Description.

Personalize the organization’s relationship with board members. In larger organizations, there are dedicated members of the development team who cultivate and steward relationships with board members. However, even in small nonprofit organizations, creating ties to different stakeholders in the organization (staff, clients and donors) will encourage board members to become and stay involved in the organization’s fundraising success. What can you do today to connect with your board members?

Engage board members in advocacy and fundraising. Board members should willingly use their professional and personal networks to benefit your organization. Organizations should share information on a potential grant funder’s board and staff with board members, encouraging them to utilize any connections with potential funders to aid in the grants process. Engaging board members in this way will also deepen their commitment to the organization’s success.


Creating an environment that encourages board engagement requires strategically employing members’ time and skills in support of your organization. An engaged board is a vital component to the overall health of an organization. While involving board members in the grants process will not guarantee funding from potential grantors, your chances may improve significantly with their involvement.

For nonprofit organizations seeking additional information on private grants and how to utilize board members to secure them, check out the information provided on our website at If you are interested in The Snay Group’s services, complete the Grant Readiness Questionnaire.


About Bentonne Snay

Bentonne Snay, President and CEO of The Snay Group, Inc., is an experienced executive and fundraiser with more than 30 years in the nonprofit sector, including 26 years as a grant professional. She has been a Grant Professional Certified since 2011. She is proficient in all areas of fund development and excels at the development of award-winning grant proposals.


Established in 1991, The Snay Group, Inc. provides the highest quality professional consulting services to organizations seeking to increase their revenues through the acquisition of public, private, and community grant awards in addition to other fundraising initiatives. The Snay Group has secured nearly $39 million in grant awards for numerous nonprofit clients, including Catalyst Miami.


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