Sara---You have what could be a most helpful contact to be made by a board member of your organization to a trustee of a foundation where you have a letter of inquiry under possible review. You are right on the ball with wanting to discuss the steps to take. Some might think there is nothing to discuss---that you have your board member move right ahead and make the contact. To begin with, what sort of contact is possible? There is a wide range of possible involvement---from your board member making a phone call or sending a note of endorsement only of the proposal, to your board member seeking an in-person meeting with the foundation trustee to directly solicit her or his support---alone, or with an official of your organization.
However, such a direct and exclusive contact of any kind by your board member to that foundation trustee, could spell trouble.
I believe it matters most to whom you directed/addressed the letter of inquiry---especially if there has been any prior or subsequent dialogue---or any proposed---of any kind between you and that person.
First off, you have to take care to determine how zealously the foundation program officer (or any initial contact person) guards access to her or his superiors---in this case the trustees, and further, the one your board member knows. I would seriously consider asking the program officer what level of contact they are comfortable with and how they would like you to handle any other contact. You can point out to that foundation official that your board member is the one who wishes to make the contact and that you must act on that request made by your leadership---but with her or his guidance. My rule of thumb is never, never, leapfrog over anybody. In general, woe befalls the development professional who goes around the program officer (or corporate contributions manager, or a national corporation’s local management).
When anyone from any organization makes the initial contact with the chairperson or trustees of one major foundation I know, they get a letter back from the program officer beginning, “Our Foundation Chair has forwarded your request/inquiry for funds to me because, as you should know, it is my responsibility to review all proposals or inquiries prior to the trustees considering them.” Being chastised for not following the “rules” according to the program officer’s desires, is not exactly the best way to begin a dialogue with a person whose recommendation is crucially important to our funding request. I know this, because I once received that letter.
On the other hand, I have found that almost always, letting a program officer know that we have people of influence representing our organization who have relationships with the foundation’s officials and who are willing to use them, results in very helpful guidance---often enthusiastic encouragement---from the program officer regarding when and how to use those relationships to our full advantage. They just don't like to be blind sided. None of us do in any of our jobs.
From one organization to another, and certainly from one foundation to another, there might be steps which are necessary to individually adjust in order of implementation---some to add, and some to step back from. I worked those relationships for our organization on a case by case basis---but always with the guidance of the program officer.
Best grant-getting wishes,
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