To get to the point of approaching a funder, you have put in many hours of hard work. You have shaped your idea, prepared your organization, learned the necessary terminology, and created detailed research files about prospective donors.
Congratulations! Your extensive research will pay off in a greater probability that the donors you approach will consider your organization, project, or program.
If we have one piece of advice for you in working with donors, it is this: Do what they ask you to do. Contact them using the method they request in the time frame they set, in the way they ask. If they want or don't want a letter of inquiry before a full proposal, follow that. If they specify what documents they want to see, show them. Not following a donor's instructions will significantly reduce your likelihood of getting funding from that donor.
Good news: if you have already reviewed the What do you need funding for? section of this site, you already have done a lot of essential homework. The planning you have put into your organization and thinking about your needs, project, and budget will now become part of your proposal.
The primary way nonprofit organizations interact with prospective donors and request funding is by writing grant proposals. Contrary to popular opinion, a proposal is the last step in the funding process, reflecting the strength of the organization and program it seeks to support. A strong proposal cannot compensate for a weak program or organization.
The Chicago Area Grant Application and Report
Working collaboratively, representatives from Chicago's foundations and corporate giving programs as well as nonprofit organizations, designed a central application and reporting form to streamline these processes.
You can download both PDF and Word templates of the Chicago Area Grant Application Form and Chicago Area Grant Report below.
These forms are now accepted by 40 local foundations and corporate giving programs and can be used in the place of the participating foundation's application and report forms. Click the link below to see a list of funders that accept the Chicago Area Grant Application Form and Chicago Area Grant Report. Even if none of these funders is on your short list of prospective donors, we recommend looking at these documents as useful examples.