Here at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, we enjoy meeting with nonprofits. By being accessible, we are freshly inspired by people who are on the ground making a difference in our community.

If you’re thinking of reaching out to request a meeting, ask these seven questions to make sure your time is used wisely:

  1. What is the purpose of the meeting?
    We receive quite a few emails that start and end like this: “I would like to meet with you. Are you available this week?” This mysterious approach is intriguing, but we love to know the purpose up front so that everyone’s time is used effectively. Another colleague at the Foundation may be the right person for a particular request. We may need to prepare something in advance of the meeting. In some cases, the Foundation is not the right resource.
  2. Are you meeting to ask for funding?
    Do you ever call funders asking to “pick their brain” about something when you really want to ask about a grant? It’s totally natural for you to ask for money or to have questions about a grant. You’re talking to a foundation, right? But if that is the purpose of your request, make it clear so that we can provide the best direction for you at the time. This may or may not involve a meeting. And it may or may not involve the person you originally contacted.
  3. Are you meeting to ask for a job lead?
    Come right out and let us know if you’re looking for a connection. We do like to help people network for the good of the community, but we also have limited time available for meetings that end up being job opportunity explorations in disguise. Be up front from the beginning about it. This can be very useful after you have landed that new job at a nonprofit and need to come back in to see us.
  4. Can we meet over the phone?
    We love to meet people in person so that we can get to know each other and establish a relationship. But you can often accomplish your meeting objectives by scheduling 15 minutes over the phone. In this community, we all know how much travel time can add to the day, and if you can avoid it, there’s more time for your mission, right? If you’re not sure about whether a phone meeting is the best choice, ask your foundation contact. She will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
  5. Who else needs to be involved?
    It can be frustrating to foundations to meet with members of nonprofits when decision-makers are not invited and information has to be repeated in subsequent conversations. It can also be frustrating when extra people show up that we were not expecting. Let us know how many people will be joining you so that we have the right space available.
  6. Do you really need to meet this week?
    I really appreciate it when someone gives me a time frame such as, “It would help if we could meet before mid-May.” If your meeting request is truly an “emergency,” it’s especially helpful to understand in advance what you hope the Foundation may provide for your situation. An in-person meeting will likely not change the outcome if we feel cannot help you with a last-minute request.
  7. Is your Giving Partner Profile updated?
    Trust me, we use your Giving Partner profiles a lot. Like every day. We will read your profile before you come in to meet with us too. If you want to share a new need, a new program, or a new accomplishment, it should already be in your profile (along with your current staff and board members) when we meet. Then the Foundation can do its job and be prepared for our meeting with you, already equipped with the latest and greatest about your impact.

Our team feels privileged to work with nonprofits in our community. Thank you for the time you give to us in person, helping us to understand more about the great things you are accomplishing for people, places and animals!

Now it’s your turn. What do you wish Foundations would ask before setting up a site visit at your nonprofit organization? We can learn from you, so let us know.

Susie Bowie
VP of Philanthropic Education & Marketing