What Does It Mean When a Grant Says Invite-Only?

The grant world is competitive. When searching on other sites, you may have come across grant-making foundations that do not accept unsolicited proposals or the term invite-only. GrantWatch.com only posts currently available grants that are open to all who meet the eligibility requirements or grant listings that may require an LOI prior to being invited to apply.

If you are wondering how to know if a grant is invite-only on other sites, take note that foundations will clearly state if they do not accept unsolicited proposals or even unsolicited LOIs (letters of interest). Any unsolicited proposals that the funder receives are likely to be rejected. Does this mean that you should avoid invite-only foundations? Absolutely not! In fact, you should divert your grant-winning strategy to taking the time to receive an invitation.

Who Receives an Invite?

Invite-only grants are usually open only to nonprofits that typically have an established relationship with the funding source. Furthermore, the funder would have contacted these nonprofits and encouraged them to apply. When developing new grant opportunities, the funder will typically reach out to its network of nonprofit contacts to notify them and encourage them to submit a proposal.

To seek out grantees, grant funders will actively engage with a wide range of organizations, community groups, and other foundations. Additionally, they monitor local ongoing programs and invite proposals from potential grantees based on priorities set by the foundation’s trustees.

How to Receive an Invitation?

If you see an invite-only grant that aligns with your mission and goals, you’ll need to begin building a relationship with that funder.

1. Introductions
Consider asking an affiliated colleague to introduce you and your organization to the invite-only foundation. The funder can find it validating to be introduced by someone who is already known to both parties. These warm introductions can go a long way in building trust and establishing relationships.

2. Testing the waters
Once you’re introduced, consider sharing your funding strategy with the invite-only funder. It shows them that you have a plan. It is also a solid way to gather feedback. 

3. Start networking 
Start researching the events and workshops your invite-only funders are attending. The ability to meet funders in a more neutral setting is crucial. On the other hand, sending an email is the simplest way to introduce yourself. While it may not yield a result right away, it could lead to a partnership down the road. 

Summary

Although invite-only opportunities may seem intimidating, they can result in vital funding for your organization. If a funding source specifically requests no unsolicited proposals, that does not mean you should never contact these funders. Rather, it just means that you should not ask them for money right away. Do some research on the donor and think up some good questions you can ask that may lead to a dialogue.

These funders do usually give grants every year. Their grantees also had to start somewhere to get from unsolicited to solicited. If they can, so can you!

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