If Foundations Had ‘Bonus Bucks’…

I was recently having lunch with representatives from various foundations who began to lament about how nonprofits react to declined applications. Most nonprofits receive the news graciously and respectfully follow up to inquire what improvements need to be made.

There are, however, a few organizations that ruin it for the rest of the field. One foundation representative said that she sent a declination to a nonprofit Executive Director who then called every other person he knew at the foundation to ask if they would reconsider – everyone, that is, except for the program officer.

Another foundation program officer said that a Development Director called when she received a declination letter to argue that she had, indeed, included all of the necessary attachments. When the program officer pointed out that she did not include her organization’s most recent audit or a list of the board members, the Development Director haughtily asked, “Why didn’t you just call and ask me for it? I can’t believe that you wouldn’t make that simple gesture.” The foundation program officer replied, “Why didn’t you just attach it in the first place? All of the approved applicants didn’t seem to have any problems ensuring that all of the attachments were included with their application.”

As the program officers shared their various horror stories, someone suggested, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we had ‘bonus bucks’ to offer to those organizations that are gracious and respectful and just simply professional?” There was a collective gasp of delight! All of the foundation representatives loved that idea. Will it ever come to fruition? Probably not. And it really shouldn’t even be needed. But it might be a good idea for nonprofits to believe that there is that option, if that is what keeps them in line!

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