Balancing Your Portfolio: Step Two – Building (or Reloading) Your Prospect List

The key to a balanced grant portfolio — investment and sustaining grants — is having the right prospects.  When I am formulating or refreshing a prospect list for a client, I ask myself “Given the agency’s plans to expand or enhance programming during the coming year …”

  • Which current grantors can increase their giving from a sustaining to an investment level?
  • Which foundations must we attract to bring significant dollars and credibility to the organization and its programs?
  • What are the current giving trends among these current and prospective foundations that might marry well to the emerging direction of the client’s programming?

Case: I work with a youth serving organization that has a robust education program.  A new focus of their programming is to help high school graduates from their program who have gained college acceptance successfully transition into a two-year or four-year college or university.  My first step in this instance was to look globally at education funders giving in the client’s geographic service area who are moving in the direction of college access funding.  Having identified several funders who meet this criteria, the next step was to ascertain which ones could give at an investment level   significantly improving our chances of growing and ultimately sustaining a program   This core group of funders became the centerpiece of the foundation strategy during the following year and, as a result of excellent follow up and outreach by the client,  foundation giving for this organization increased significantly.

Having identified the major prospects for investment grants, now we turn our attention to sustaining funders.  Prospects that go onto this list include:

  • Existing donors where the size of gift is limited and an investment gift is not possible
  • Lapsed donors that fit the same criteria
  • Emerging foundations or foundations associated with individual donors to the institution

The name of the game in building or improving the portfolio is strategic focus: on major players who can bring cash and credibility and sustaining grants that will ensure the quality of your work.  Having created this list, we will move onto our next step: creating a focused outreach strategy.


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