I want to thank you very much for honoring me with this award. I am particularly proud to receive it because two of my good friends, Dudley Orr and Phil Beals, have received this award in previous years.
I would have been content with just the honor, but Rich Miner said I was expected to burden you with a few remarks, and after all that is a small price to pay for bed and breakfast at your attractive Sheraton.
I suspect that the reason I was selected was that I happen to be on the boards of trustees of three of Worcester's largest private foundations, and since you are in the business of grant seeking, that I might be able to offer some advice. First let me clarify that of the three foundations I have referred to, two are heavily oriented toward the Worcester area and the third is solely for the promotion of education in schools, colleges and other educational institutions.
Herewith are a few "do's and don'ts" from my point of view.
We grant makers are basically friendly people. Charles Lamb once commenced an essay about lawyers: "Lawyers were children once." So were grant makers. Like college admissions officers these days who realize that each applicant they interview has a one-in-five chance of being accepted, grant makers realizing that their funds are limited understandably become defensive, but believe me, their sympathy is with you. They would like to help.
Keep in mind that it is not our money you are asking for.
During World War II, my first station was at Craig Field, Alabama as Courts and Boards Officer, and in addition to my other duties, I was Gas Rationing Officer. Being from Vermont, I brought a somewhat frugal viewpoint to the post, and one of the young southern officers was heard to exclaim "Captain Fletcher rations this gasoline as though it was his own."
Not only is it not our money, but we are required by law to distribute a certain percentage of it each year. You are not asking me for money, and you are not asking for yourself.
How about proposals?
In our case, we prefer written proposals. Some applicants prefer personal interviews, however and in such cases, these are granted.
Any proposal should concisely describe the project, the institution if it is not known, the cost, the budget, list of directors or trustees, and attempt to show how it fits our purposes, and anything that distinguishes it from similar requests. My small son used to bring me down to earth occasionally with the question "What's so good about that?" and you might ask yourselves the same question.
Above all, make your proposal brief. We don't need the curriculum vitae of all your staff or every newspaper article that has ever been published about your institution. We have a rule of thumb that the size of our grants is in inverse proportion to the length of the application.
Should you ask for a specific amount, and if so, how much?
I would say that simply stating you hope we will give generously is not as effective as stating a figure. Of course, the danger of suggesting a figure is that it will be so large as to turn the giver off. Consequently, you should try to make your figure just right.
During the first World War, they told the story of a major who summoned a sergeant in his outfit after one engagement and gave him a keg of liquor to share with his detachment. Several days later, the sergeant encountered the major and the major asked how he liked the liquor he had given him. The sergeant replied "it was just right." A little further conversation ensued, and the major inquired again how he liked the liquor, and received the same laconic reply. "What do you mean, 'just right'?" asked the major, and the sergeant replied "Well, if it was any better, you wouldn't have given it to us, and if it was any worse, it would have killed us." "Just right" is a figure large enough to be helpful, but small enough to be realistically obtainable, that will not turn away the grant makers.
Probably you should make your request on the high side. James Russell Lowell said "Not failure, but low aim is a crime." Don't find yourself in a position of a friend of an old aunt of mine in Vermont.
My aunt periodically helped out a friend of hers - a little old lady who lived in the mountains. One summer she received the customary letter from her saying that it was strawberrying time and could she send her $10 to help her with the canning. Aunt Jess promptly complied, and in due course, received the following acknowledgement: "Dear Mrs. Swift: Thank you for the $10. Oh, how I wish I had asked for more!"
I don't suppose there ever was a grant seeker whose request was granted who didn't feel the same way.
It is sometimes dangerous to get too enthusiastic about your cause.
My father-in-law did a great deal of solicitation for worthy causes and he got such a reputation as a solicitor that they would assign him the tough nuts to crack. One such person was a crusty old bank president who was a little hard of hearing. He went to the president's office and told him the story, and asked if he would consider a gift of $5,000. The banker asked some further questions and seemed to be quite interested, so that when he turned and said "How much did you say you wanted?" my father-in-law quickly raised his sights and replied "$10,000" whereupon the banker replied , "I thought you said $5,000."
Do your homework on the foundation you are approaching. Learn its priorities and guidelines. Since foundations publish annual reports setting these forth, copies of their forms 990 required to be filed annually are obtainable either from the IRS or more easily from the office of the Foundation Center in New York, or in some cases, at your local library. From these you can get an idea of the size and character of the grants.
A few trivia: Learn the name of the foundation. First impressions are important and if you haven't taken the care to even learn its correct name, you can expect diminished interest in your proposal from the outset. As I said before, we grant makers are human, including having our share of vanity.
One of the foundations that I am on is the George I. Alden Trust. The other day, I received a telephone call - "Is this George Alden?" - "No, he's dead." - "Are you the executor of his estate?" - "No, he died sixty years ago." He made a poor beginning.
And if you are dealing with one of our Worcester foundations, learn to spell WORCESTER. You would be surprised how many people , even in Massachusetts, spell it with an "h." And don't call it "Wooster." We are very touchy people.
No form letters. A form letter is apt to get a form response.
Finally, and as important as anything! Acknowledge receipt of your grants promptly and with enthusiasm (even if you are disappointed).
David Ives, the WGBH fundraiser has never let me forget the time he was slow to acknowledge what we thought was a particularly generous gift from our foundation and I stopped payment on the check. So I guess I should add another admonition, "Deposit your checks promptly."
I hope I may have been helpful and I hope that you will be understanding even if your application is turned down. Our resources are finite. It gives us no great pleasure to turn you down. In short, we're human and bear with us.