Tips for Scheduling Visits to Major Independent Foundations
Begin to arrange foundation meetings at least 45-60 days prior to your travel dates – especially visits to East Coast foundations. Last minute calls are rarely successful.
Lead letters are fine but you will have to make follow up phone calls. Be persistent. Several phone calls may be required to secure a meeting. If sending a lead letter, be specific about the purpose of your visit and the topics you (or your Dean) would like to discuss.
Know the foundation’s grant making cycle. Requesting a visit the week prior to the foundation’s board meeting reflects that you haven’t done your homework.
Foundations rarely entertain social calls or “get-to-know-you” visits that do not also include more formal business topics.
Some foundations won’t meet with Advancement (Development) Officers unless you are accompanied by a Dean or faculty member. Don’t take it personally.
If your unit has an existing grantor-grantee relationship with a foundation, a stewardship visit is entirely possible; but even large foundations typically have small staffs and their time for meetings is very limited. Be considerate.
If your unit is hoping to establish a new relationship with a foundation, go armed with two or three clearly developed concepts that you would like to discuss. Fully developed project plans are great but aren’t required for an early-stage discussion. One page for each idea is plenty.
Whenever possible, foundations prefer to see your new ideas prior to the visit so they can ask questions at the meeting. Again, do your homework. Make sure your new ideas are a fit for the foundation you are visiting.
Assume that an hour is all the time you will have. Be respectful of the program officer’s time. Get in, do your business, get out. Don’t be late to your meeting. If you are traveling in a large city, provide enough time for travel.
It’s fine to take notes at your meeting. Make sure to follow up on any action items that are discussed.