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Successful Site Visits: 7 Tips from Funders

You’ve prepared the most compelling grant application, submitted it before the deadline, and just received that sought-after phone call asking for a site visit. Now, what do you do?
Often, private, corporate, and community foundations rely on site visits before making their final funding decisions. The site visit may be the single event that can make or break an organization’s chance of 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/or 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”.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 a 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 the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that impact in person.
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Margit Brazda Poirier, GPC, M.S. is Owner and CEO of Grants4Good LLC®, a grant consulting company that specializes in online training and grant strategy.

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About the Author

Margit Brazda Poirier, GPC, M.S. is Owner and CEO of Grants4Good LLC®, a grant consulting company that specializes in online training and grant strategy, and has over 20 years of nonprofit management and grants experience. She holds the GPC certification from the nationally-accredited Grant Professional Certification Institute. Margit has written and received over 8 million in grants from federal, state, foundation, and corporate sources – and she has the unique perspective of understanding both grant seeking and grant making, given her experience leading a prominent foundation that issued over one million in grants annually. Having spent several years in grant seeking and writing, followed by leading a private foundation, Margit wanted to put her skills to use helping organizations to better understand and navigate the philanthropic community. Margit’s interests include working with organizations to help them develop a sustainable and manageable grant seeking plan that ensures their long-term operational and programmatic success. Margit is a published national journal author and frequent speaker on all aspects of grant writing. Grants4Good LLC is certified as a Woman-Owned Business by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and New York Empire State Development, and is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Grant Professionals Association.

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