If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is lethal.
In short, never. Why? It just doesn’t work.
Sending out boiler plate proposals rarely works and top grant developers just don’t waste their time doing it as Nancy Withbroe, who I interviewed for my book, pointed out,
"I think one of the things that is really important not to do is send out generic proposals to the top 100 funders that come up in your initial research. I think it’s like any other direct marketing and you are going to get a very low response rate and likely to be zero unless you are really fortunate."
Mariann Lockwood is masterful at relationship building and knows that getting a generic response is tantamount to saying “I can’t be bothered to get to know you but can you write me a check anyway.” She also talked about her aversion to generic, boiler-plate materials when I interviewed her,
'It just can’t be a boiler plate which is sometimes very tempting to do, to cut and paste. And often I have had proposals come across my desk where the cut and paste is so clearly not talking directly enough to the foundation’s interest that you just have to change it.
Why they don’t work
The reason why they don’t work is that people have a core need to be seen.
Our ego needs acknowledgement and respect. We all know the desire to be acknowledged for accomplishing something or for being recognized for doing a job well. A healthy ego asks for, and expects, recognition when it is due. And, the darker side of that desire is pretending to be someone important or demanding to be special even at the expense of other people.
But our hearts yearn to be seen in a different way. We need someone to truly see who we are, what we are passionate about, and the things that light us up from inside.
This isn’t a peripheral need but something deep at our core. Because when we are seen for how and what we love by another, we are connecting through love, to the Universal One. It is a moment of both recognition and remembering. We recognize the love that flows through another and remember that is who we are ourselves.
Disconnected from that recognition, we wither, we forget, and feel unease for a reason that we cannot quite put our finger on.
So, when you send a generic proposal to someone, there is nothing for them to connect to. It does not say “I see you. I know who you are and what you love. I share that passion and would like to partner with you.”
It has more of the flavor “I hear you have money and I need some. Here’s my idea, what do you think?”
Which does your heart respond to?
Next time you are tempted to send out a boiler plate proposal, don’t.
Instead take the time that it would take to compose it and reach out and try to establish a connection with someone who might be able to shed light on what truly matters to this particular funder.
Now, that is more intimidating than sending out a generic proposal but it is the first step on a path towards success.