This post first appeared in Philanthropy Front and Center San Francisco.

During a Foundation Center San Francisco event last month, a representative of a local grassroots nonprofit brought up a challenging question: How can smaller grassroots organizations compete with more established nonprofits to garner the support of funders?

Shawn Dove, CEO of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, had some valuable advice for attracting foundation support applicable to any organization, no matter the size, that he referred to as the "5 Rs":

Relationships: All aspects of fundraising are relational. Even getting a "no" from a funder is a valuable opportunity to build up your future relationship with foundations. It's a chance to explore the next opportunity, either with that funder or another funder they might be able to connect you with.

Research: Know your field and know who supports your type of work. Don't take a shot in the dark. Who's funding similar work that other organizations are doing? Sometimes foundation funding is unsustainable, and sometimes it's not going to happen at all. There simply isn't enough funding for every great idea to have its own organization. Be entrepreneurial and think about partnerships!

Resources: How can you be a resource before asking for support? Being a resource to the philanthropic community is the best way to get positive attention and emphasize the value of your work. Remember that you have to help educate and inform the field you're working in.

ROI (Return on Investment): What is the value of the outcome of the grant compared to the cost of funding it? How efficiently are you using their support for maximum impact, and how will you show it? Be able to articulate your potential ROI.

Relax: The sense of urgency of getting a grant never matches the urgency of giving the grant. Asking for grant money from a desperate place won't let you build the lasting relationships you need for a sustainable partnership. Keep in mind that foundations have to say "no" more than they can say "yes." For every three "yes's" there might be seven "no's."A rejection letter is an opportunity to request feedback and start a relationship leading up to the next proposal submission.

This summary of Shawn Dove's "5 Rs" came from a panel discussion about Quantifying Hope: Philanthropic Support for Black Men and Boys, a 2015 report by Foundation Center and BMAfunders. To hear Shawn Dove's full answer about the 5 Rs, fast forward to 1:49:25 in the window below or on YouTube.

Watch the entire video to hear an uplifting discussion about efforts in the Bay Area to support Black men and boys, and future directions for this work, with Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, Cedric Brown, managing partner of the Kapor Center for Social Impact, James Head, CEO of the East Bay Community Foundation, and Shawn Dove, CEO of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement.


AIDA BUDERI is a Program Assistant at Foundation Center San Francisco. Previously, she worked as Finance and Administrative Assistant for the International Rescue Committee in Oakland. She holds a BA in Global Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and in her free time she enjoys hiking and exploring the beautiful Bay Area.

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