Focus on what the project will accomplish.
impact people and communities. Building a new building is not
an accomplishment in itself. The building is
only a tool for accomplishing some bigger goal for the communityhelping
homeless people leave the street or reducing juvenile crime
by providing a safe environment for children after school.
Explain how the Foundations grant
would complement the organizations usual sources of operating
The grants made by all U.S. foundations compose
less than 10% of all nonprofit revenues. Within that context,
the Ben B. Cheney
Foundation believes that grants should complement the usual and
customary revenues that support the organizations annual
operating budget. For example, a start-up grant may help a program
operate in the first few years as it strives to acquire those
usual and customary revenues. In evaluating such a proposal the
Foundation looks both at the needs for a new program as well
as the plan for the program to attain those planned revenues.
Proposal letters should summarize fully
From time to time the Foundation
receives proposal letters that summarize ideas for proposals
rather than fully developed proposals.
Such letters create the impression that the writer wants to test
an idea, and if the idea receives a positive response, a full
proposal will be developed.
This approach has two problems. First,
the most compelling letters are ones that summarize full proposals
because such letters convey
a sense of depth and knowledge about the project. Testing an
idea with a proposal letter usually results in a presentation
that lacks such depth. Second, if a proposal letter fails to
fully answer some key questions, staff will often call the organization.
If the letter is based upon a fully developed proposal the organization
usually has a good answer to the question(s) raised. If the letter
is only testing an idea, follow-up questions usually create more
questions because the organization hasnt fully developed
Proposal letters must provide timely contact
When you mail your proposal letter your
greatest hope is that it the Foundation will respond positively
to it. So as you complete
your proposal letter, ask yourself if the letter clearly identifies
a contact person for follow-up questions or for scheduling a
site visit or an office visit.
Staff will usually contact the
person who signed the letter if there is no other contact information
provided. That may create
a problem if the proposal letter is signed by a key volunteer
that cannot be contacted through the telephone number(s) provided
on the letterhead.
Preferably the last paragraph of the proposal
letter should provide the contact information. In a small, volunteer-run
this might be a board member. Organizations with staff should
provide contact information for the executive director and/or
the development director.
Submit your proposal letter as soon
as possible, but not before the project is ready.
Foundation hopes to assist as many grant seekers as possible.
Yet the number of deserving projects makes this a challenge.
Grant requests may be turned down or deferred if it appears that
it is too early in the project for the Foundation to pursue a
grant. Grant seekers can improve their chances if they follow
- Capital campaigns outside of Tacoma/Pierce County
should achieve a substantial percentage of goal (often 40%
to 50%) before writing
to the Ben B. Cheney Foundation. The Foundation wants to
know that the project has local support.
- If the project hinges upon
a key commitment, be reasonably sure that commitment is in
place before writing a proposal letter.
Such commitments might be a large grant from a major foundation
or a major government grant.
- Fully develop the vision for what
the project will accomplish. Building a building is not an
accomplishment itself. The building
is only a tool for accomplishing a larger community good.
prepared for your reporting responsibilities.
step to your next grant is your reporting on your current grant.
When you receive a grant make sure that you plan for update
reports to all donors. The Ben B. Cheney Foundation prefers reports
in a letter. The narrative should outline both the progress toward
the program objectives outlined in your formal application and
an update on the budget submitted with the formal application.
Reports should be made at least every six months until the project
Remember that your budget is only a plan.
While budgets are important, they are only tools for understanding
bigger issues. Your proposal letter should outline the problem/opportunity
your organization wants to deal with and how it plans to approach
the situation. Naturally, that raises the question, What
resources do you need for this project? A budget is a tool
for answering that question.
In addition, no budget is complete
without an income portion. This portion of the budget explains
how you plan to garner the
resources you need for the project. Often this is the most
difficult portion of the budget.
Proposal letters only need to
summarize the budget information with figures such as total
project cost, the plan for raising
needed resources, and a request for a specific amount from
the Ben B. Cheney Foundation.
Consider the timing of requests
within the context of several years.
As the number
of requests to the Foundation grows there is an effort to increase
the time period between consecutive
grants. If your organization has a major project coming
up in a year
or two that you believe would be of interest to the Foundation,
you may want to refrain from making other grant requests
until that time.
The Foundation generally wants to see
20 to 24 months between when a grant has been made and the
submission of another
proposal letter. This timeframe applies to all grants,
through the small grant program or reviewed at a quarterly
For more information you may email us at: