Institutional Fundraising Strategy

Despite their efforts at transparency, the funding priorities and processes of private foundations and government agencies can be opaque and relationships can be difficult to cultivate. For years we have been informally coaching colleagues to help them better understand institutional fundraising and answer their questions: How much is too much communication? How much is not enough? How can I form new relationships with foundations? What is the right amount to ask for? How do they make funding decisions? If I’m not funded, how can I find out why? 

We have deep knowledge about DC’s regional grantmaking landscape and we want to help nonprofits gain better insight.

We have over a decade of experience on both sides of the table – first with local foundation and government grantmakers, and more recently, helping nonprofit clients develop and submit successful proposals.

As a way to meet client demand, we have developed a set of services to inform local nonprofits' institutional funding strategy through dedicated coaching programs and assistance in the development of large-scale proposals. 

Coaching for Novice Fundraisers


Our 1:1 coaching program supports executive directors and development directors who are new to their fundraising roles. The three-month engagement includes bi-weekly deep dives, homework assignments, and reading materials to help hone your fundraising instincts. By the end of the engagement, you’ll be equipped to:

Evaluate the philanthropic environment and understand trends and future direction

Determine your most effective institutional fundraising strategies and case for giving

Understand the vast number of resources at your disposal for prospect research and proposal development

Draft strong grant narratives to position your organization’s strengths and challenges

Hold honest and transparent conversations with your board of directors about fundraising goals and needs 

Communicate your unique value proposition to engage and cultivate potential funders 

Proposal Development for large, complex grants

In our opinion, there is nothing better than a well-written, beautifully formatted grant. We are available to support proposal strategy, development, editing and proofreading services for government grants and large-scale initiatives. Past engagements have included the Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of State, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and the McArthur Foundation’s 100&Change program.

Story District, a DC-based nonprofit dedicated to the art of storytelling, engaged us to revamp their institutional fundraising strategy. Through a mix of 1:1 coaching and proposal development, we updated Story District's grant narratives, found new sources of government grant funding, including an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and helped contributed revenue grow by 40% in two years.

Client spotlight

Story District

"I contracted Carlyn to help write grant applications. She helped to strengthen our language and build budgets that aligned with grant requirements. She was particularly helpful when she walked me through the process of applying for and managing grants from the federal government. We increased our funding from grants and received our first NEA grant! In addition, she just made my life easier. There was a nice balance of independence while also asking questions and checking in with me. She was always competent, patient, knowledgeable, and accessible."

Amy Saidman
Artistic Executive Director
Story District

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