There is no one best way to contact your donor. You have to decide on the most appropriate strategy according to the profile of your donor and that of your NGO.
Letters could be used to make an initial contact with your donor. You can write a letter to ask for further explanations after a call for project proposals is advertised, or you can write to make a more general enquiry and assess the interest of the targeted donor to fund your project when no call has been disseminated. Letters must be formal, clear, and short.
a) Letter for further explanations: It is normally said in a call for proposals whether the donor could be contacted and how. Make sure you have carefully read all the material available before making your enquiry. Do not send letters asking whether your project could be considered unless stated by the donor. If you are unsure about whether to apply or not, ask concrete questions and link them with specific problems addressed by the general guidelines of the call for proposals.
b) Unsolicited letters: Start by briefly explaining why you are writing to them. For instance, mention projects that your donor has supported in the past that are similar to your own. Link your objectives with the donor’s main goals. Briefly introduce your NGO and summarise your long-term activities and aims. Write a short paragraph about your ideas for a new project and ask whether they would be interested in collaborating with you. Do not ask for money in your first letter, wait for them to show interest first.
Proposals must be sent only when a new call for proposals is advertised. Do not send unsolicited proposals. Proposals take time to both write and to read. Do not waste your time writing a proposal if nobody has asked for it. Remember that donors are busy and they will not read through your proposal, even if exceptional, if they are not looking for new projects to sponsor. If you want to approach someone who does not have an open call, then opt for a short concept note. The donor will find it easier to read through a few pages and let you know whether they want to hear more from you or not.
Meetings are a great opportunity to meet donors and to start a dialogue with them. Never miss a meeting in your city or region! Go to the meeting prepared. Research your donor before meeting them. Try to understand what their strategies and goals are. Listen carefully to what they say, and ask as many questions as you can. On the one hand, by asking questions you can make your organisation visible and you can show that you have come to the meeting prepared. On the other hand, face-to-face discussions are the best way to get quick answers to what it is not clear to you and to understand what the donor is looking for. Also, meetings are important for networking and to make personal contacts with people working in your field, which will contribute towards building potential collaborations, exchange of ideas, and shared past experiences. Make sure to introduce yourself to key people at the end of the meeting and to get their business cards. These contacts will sooner or later become important.