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Revised in mid-2016, this post covers guidance about contacting funders that is found in common grant application (CGA) forms. Its context is the United States of America.



At least 20 associations of grant makers or other organizations in the United States publish a common grant application (CGA) form online. This post explores CGA providers’ guidance to potential applicants about contacting individual grant makers before submitting a proposal.


Earlier posts explored common grant application forms in terms of required elements of proposals. Later posts will explore proposal length and format requirements, applicant revenue sources, budget expense categories, and other aspects of common grant application forms. The end of the post explains the abbreviations that it uses.



Some grant consultants indicate that the extent and quality of an applicant’s contact with a funder impacts its proposal’s funding outcome. They remark that with pre-submittal contact, a proposal becomes more likely to be funded. In the context of private grant making, this is often the case.


Contacting Funders

Out of the 20 providers of common grant application forms, nine (or 45%) of them — CA, DC, IL, ME, MA, MI, NJ, PA-2, and WA — on their websites and common grant application forms give no guidance to applicants about contacting individual grant makers before submitting a proposal. In the table below, an asterisk (*) signifies that a CGA provider gives no guidance about pre-submittal applicant contact with potential grant makers.


Eleven (or 55%) CGA providers do give guidance about pre-submittal contact. A Y (Yes) at Initial Contact means that the CGA provider encourages pre-submittal contact in one form or another (e.g., phone call, email, website visit). A Y (Yes) at Must Contact means that the CGA provider requires pre-submittal contact with the potential grant maker. A blank at Must Contact means that the CGA provider encourages pre-submittal contact— but does not strongly recommend or explicitly require it. (See the table below.)


  Common Grant Application Forms
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Initial Contact Y Y * Y Y * * * * * Y Y * Y Y Y * Y * Y
Must Contact     *   Y * * * * * Y   *   Y   *   * Y


All CGA States



Two (or 10%) CGA providers — CO and DC — publish Users’ Guides to go with their common grant application forms. One (CO) furnishes guidance on pre-submittal contact; one (DC) does not.


Many CGA providers remind potential applicants to review each specific grant maker’s guidelines about initial contact and to follow them. Eight (or 40%) of them — NNG, CA, CO, MN, MO, OH, PA-1, and WI — caution that a funder may accept a proposal only after it gets an initial phone call, an email, a query letter (also called a letter of inquiry), or a pre-application form. Seven (or 35%) CGA providers — CT, MN, MO, NY, OH, PA-1, and WI —also explicitly encourage some manner of direct contact with the funder.


Four (or 20%) CGA providers — AZ, CO, MO, and TX — mention reviewing funders’ websites. One (or 5%) CGA provider (NNG) cautions potential applicants against sending out mass mailings of proposals.


Pre-Submittal Contact

Instructions from two (or 10%) CGA providers (OH and MN) use identical language to note that: “Many funders generally like to have initial contact with you before receiving a written proposal.” The instructions for a third CGA provider (CT) unequivocally frame pre-submittal contact in the imperative: “Call or write each grantmaker to obtain specific guidelines for application. Do not submit this application without this contact.”



Below is a list of abbreviations used in this post. The common grant application forms are found on their providers’ websites.

  • 1.   NNG: National Network of Grantmakers
  • 2.   AZ: Arizona Grantmakers Forum
  • 3.   CA: San Diego Grantmakers
  • 4.   CO: Colorado Nonprofit Association
  • 5.   CT: Connecticut Council for Philanthropy
  • 6.   DC: Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
  • 7.   IL: Forefront (Chicago area)
  • 8.   ME: Maine Philanthropy Center
  • 9.  MA: Associated Grantmakers
  • 10. MI: Council of Michigan Foundations
  • 11. MN: Minnesota Community Foundation
  • 12. MO: Gateway Center for Giving
  • 13. NJ: Council of New Jersey Grantmakers/Philanthropy New York
  • 14. NY: Grantmakers Forum of New York
  • 15. OH: Ohio Grantmakers Forum
  • 16. PA-1: Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia
  • 17. PA-2: Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania
  • 18. TX: Central Texas Education Funders
  • 19. WA: Philanthropy Northwest
  • 20. WI: Donors Forum of Wisconsin



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