Smart, brave and unrelenting

Smart, brave and unrelenting. These are the words that blogger Mario Munoz uses to describe the critically acclaimed show Homeland on the media blog In Harsh Light.

Are these words that describe you as a fundraiser?

In Season 1 of Showtime's "Homeland," we see Claire Danes as CIA officer Carrie Mathison cover a wall with information she has collected and analyzed. Her goal is to understand how a terrorist cell works, and to predict what will happen next based on the patterns she's discovered. What might happen if you applied the same passion and analytic fervor to grant prospect research?

In the photo above, Claire Danes, playing the committed, experienced (and flawed) intelligence analyst Carrie Mathison, has tacked a blizzard of printouts to her wall. As Carrie has interpreted them, the documents tell a story about how an Al-Queda network has evolved, and what it might do next. She’s used different colors of highlighters to delineate the years and developments in her timeline of terrorism.

Catching terrorists may be thrilling, but so can piecing together a pathway to fund a nonprofit.

After all, try as it might, the FBI doesn’t know how to find general operating grant sources for a medical clinic serving uninsured people in your community. That’s your job.

We’re called to be the heroes of our own lives. If your particular hero’s journey involves trying to find potential grant funders for a nonprofit, you can use some of the same tools that Carrie Mathison uses – tools as glamorous as paper, a printer, highlighters, and a database (in your case, the Foundation Directory is going to be a lot more helpful than the No Fly List).

Embrace your inner Carrie Mathison! Aggressively research potential funders. Be smart, brave and unrelenting by:

  • Taping Foundation Directory printouts to your office wall (and also, go ahead and get the key information into a good database so you don’t have to take the wall home with you when you want to work from home.)
  • Reading regional business journals to learn about the businesses that are growing in your community, and which might be in a position to support your nonprofit.
  • Attending Chamber of Commerce events to meet the decisionmakers at these companies.
  • Monitoring the Chronicle of Philanthropy to get the first word on newly created foundations (reaching out early to a new foundation to put your nonprofit on their radar can give you a real advantage for funding, if your program is a true fit with the foundation’s interests). 
  • Creating Google alerts to stay on top of all news about funders you’re interested in following.

So go forth, and build your own crazy grants wall! Carrie Mathison would be proud.

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