It happened again.

A client asked me, "Why don't we ask Bill Gates?"

You see, I had recently completed grant prospect research for her nonprofit.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation wasn't on the list I presented to my client.

She wasn't totally surprised - but some of her board members were.

So they asked her (and she asked me) what I call "The Bill Gates Question."

It's not uncommon for well-meaning board members (or staff) to suggest that their nonprofit ask Bill Gates for support.

Or Oprah.

Or, more recently, MacKenzie Scott.

After all, all three are incredibly generous philanthropists.

As for grants and major gifts from these folks and others like them?

Here's what I tell folks when they ask The Bill Gates Question.


Start with their website, if they have one. (Many foundations don't.)

Many foundation websites, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will tell you what they care about, what they fund, if they accept proposals, how to apply, and more.

For instance, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website has a page that talks about how we work, complete with Grant Applicant FAQs.

The very first question on the FAQ list? How do I apply for a grant from the foundation?

The answer?

"We do not make grants outside our funding priorities. In general, we directly invite proposals by directly contacting organizations. We do occasionally award grants through published Requests for Proposals (RFPs)."

As of this writing, the only open RFP is called "Building Polio Immunity in Helmand."

So, unless your nonprofit is focused on ending polio in the Southern region of Afghanistan - or you've been invited to apply - you can safely take the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation off your grant prospect list.


Have you heard about the LAI Principle?

After identifying a major gift prospect, you need to determine their Linkage, Ability, and Interest. L-A-I.

Let's start with Ability. Clearly, Bill Gates has the financial capacity to make a large gift.

But Ability isn't the only - or the most important - thing to consider.

Consider Linkage. This is the connection your organization has to the prospect.

Linkage is key to major gift success. That's because major gift fundraising is most successful with person-to-person asks. Peer-to-peer is even better.

Then, and perhaps most importantly, is the prospect's Interest in your organization.

That is to say, does the prospect know about your work? Do they believe in your work? Do they have a particular passion for your cause?

Yes, Bill Gates has the Ability to give - and he and his foundation do give a lot of money to lots of different causes.

But unless someone at your nonprofit "knows" Bill Gates (Linkage) - and you also know that he cares deeply about what your organization is doing (Interest) - he's probably not a good gift prospect for you.


The bad news?

You probably aren't going to get a grant from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Bill Gates probably isn't going to be a major donor to your nonprofit either.

The good news?

If you have any donors at all, then you already have major donors.

By using the LAI Principle, you can find even more. Ask yourself:

  • Who do you know? (Linkage)
  • Do they have the capacity to give a major gift? (Ability)
  • And, most importantly, do they care about what you're doing? (Interest)

The best news?

You can find more major donor prospects.

You can probably find viable grant prospects, too.

Just not Bill Gates.

Photo credit(s): Pixabay

Need help identifying prospective grant funders? Or vetting the ones you already have? Laura Rhodes can help.

Send a message to start the conversation and learn how Laura can help you and your organization.

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