How to get Noticed When Grant Solicitations are Invitation-Only

Foundations are inundated with thousands of grant applications, and the Unfunded List’s mission is to offer recognition and connections to the many organizations who apply for funding and do not receive it. Beyond this immediate issue, however, is another potential obstacle for promising organizations: there are many foundations who do not issue open grant solicitations, and instead only accept proposals by invitation. This creates an offshoot of the Unfunded List, called the uninvited list (trademark pending).

The reasons for closed-solicitations are many. Some foundations might be interested in a very specific solution or particular geographic area, or do not have the resources to handle thousands of solicitations, or all of the above. Unfortunately, this closes the door for organizations that may have potential solutions before they even get their feet off the ground.

What can these uninvited organizations do? Fortunately, there are lengthy resources available that provide some good advice for navigating this obstacle. In addition, we would like to offer a couple of quick tips:

1. Improve your position with inbound marketing tactics

Inbound marketing is the latest trend buzzing from every corner of the consulting world. Inbound is just a phrase that is used to encompass web content tactics (blogs, case studies, white papers, videos, infographics, e-newsletters, social media, etc.) that help an organization gain a better SEO position, build awareness, and attract and convert prospects.

Inbound shouldn’t be complicated; you don’t need to consult resources like this ridiculous periodic table, you only need to publish and distribute Web content pieces that can help you get noticed. This is especially important for start-up organizations because the overhead for Inbound content is so low. Furthermore, foundations and funders perform their own Web searches to gather information on organizations that serve a specific niche. Getting to the forefront of these searches is essential, and aspiring organizations can accomplish this by doing the following:

  • Identify and research the type of funder who is looking to solve a problem and the type of keywords they might use to conduct a Web search
  • Produce content that identifies this problem and positions your institution as a potential solution (without appearing too promotional). Most importantly, make sure to distinguish why your approach may be a better solution than other organizations that are looking to solve the same problem.
  • Distribute this content on the appropriate social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instragram, etc.)

These are simple steps to help you get noticed through a higher SEO position or social media buzz. Again, don’t make it complicated; if you are unsure what content medium to use, stick with the blog, which allows for flexibility (and allows you to embed videos in case you produce them).

2. Make online connections with grant managers at invitation-only foundations

Easier said than done – obviously – but it’s the surest way to get on the invite list. The simplest way to make online connections is to use LinkedIn.

  • Research the names of individuals who are managing the grant-making process at foundations that are issuing invitation-only solicitations.
  • Search their name in LinkedIn and see if you share a 2nd-degree connection. Contact your 1st degree connection to see if you can facilitate an introduction. This strategy works best if you make as many connections as possible with people you know on LinkedIn (regardless of direct professional relevance), which will increase your network.

Of course, there will always be contacts who do not have LinkedIn accounts or who are not active on it. To cover this gap, make sure to reach out to members of your email and mailing lists who are likely to have connections with grant-managers at foundations.

3. Get out and network

This is especially important for grants that are localized or serve a very specific niche. It’s likely that these focus areas include close-knit social circles, and your goal should be to go out, be seen, and introduce yourself to these people. Leaving the house; it’s the oldest trick in fundraising.

4. Submit to the Unfunded List! 

We review funding proposals twice annually from small and mid-size nonprofits and social impact startups. The 200+ philanthropy experts on our evaluation committee give helpful and candid feedback about each grant proposal’s weaknesses & strengths. Then we publish the best proposals to our list that we circulate to a rolodex of foundations and philanthropists in the hopes that we can find some funding and partnerships for these amazing unfunded proposals. Unfunded List is always accepting proposals at We invite your org to join the Unfunded List awardees and 100+ other projects that our funding evaluators have given feedback to since 2015. Find out more and submit at

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