Site Visits: 7 Tips from Funders

Sometimes a compelling grant application is not enough to secure funding in the competitive grantmaking market.  Often, private, corporate, and community foundations rely on site visits before making their final funding decisions. The site visit may actually be the single event that can make or break an organization's chance at receiving funding. So, we have interviewed the funders to ask what THEY expect from a site visit.

But first, let us explore WHY a funder may be interested in visiting your organization. Funders may use the site visit to:  1) learn more about a new or unknown organization and their capacity to deliver the proposed project; 2) hear updates and see progress from past grant awards; 3) become active partners in the work of the organization; 4) see a program in action, and 5) meet new staff. 

Advice from the Funders

After conducting several interviews with a variety of funders – corporate, private foundations, and a community foundation – it became clear there is some valuable advice to be gained for hosting a successful site visit. The following is a summary of tips learned from these interviews, that can help your organization prepare for your next visit from a funder:

  1.  Be prepared to explain the project (know the budget, work plan, organization's history, similar projects, etc.). Brief staff on the project so they can be prepared to answer questions as well. And be sure everyone is aligned on the details so that all can speak with “one voice”.
  1. Have relevant supporting materials on hand for easy reference, and be sure to follow up on questions or send additional information if needed. Do not give the funder excessive materials, a one-page fact sheet is enough.
  1. Schedule ample time for the visit, but do not provide an extravagant lunch – it is too costly and time-consuming. Light refreshments are a better option.
  1. Make a strong case for the need for the project and why the organization is uniquely positioned to deliver on the project. Why should they fund you and not the other 100 applicants?
  1. Give a tour and/or show the project to the funder. Remember the value of a positive visual impression. Be sure the office, building, and grounds are neat and uncluttered.
  1.  Do not hide any bad press or challenges the organization is facing; be upfront so that the funder can be of assistance. In most cases, they may already be aware that the organization has had financial struggles.
  1. Allow the funder to interact with the project's target audience (e.g. youth, volunteers, etc.). This is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of a site visit from the funder's perspective because it truly shows the impact of their grant award.

A site visit is a chance for positive interaction with a funder. The most rewarding part of the work of being a volunteer, family member or staff of a foundation is the ability to support the work of an organization that is making a strong impact in the community. The site visit is an opportunity to demonstrate that impact in person.

What tips would you like to share to help others maximize their success during a site visit?
Margit Brazda Poirier, GPC is the founder and owner of Grants4Good, LLC®, a grant development consulting company based in Rochester, New York.



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