Do Relationships Matter?
The answer to this question is: Yes! As Grant Professionals, we know in our hearts that funder relationships matter. In the United States, there are more than 1.6 million registered non-profits. Because it’s so competitive to obtain funding, organizations have to stand out from the crowd. One way to do that is by building a relationship with potential funders.
Grantegy Process and Relationships
Getting to know a funder helps you to understand their mission, goals, and vision for giving. Critical to long-term strategies is allowing a prospective grantmaker to understand the work that your organization does. From the feasibility study to compliance, each step in our Grantegy Process tangibly or intangibly affects relationships with funders.
When conducting the feasibility study, we look intently at the organization’s who, what, where, why, when, how, and who cares. This helps inform us and provide data points to provide a grant optimization strategy for the next steps. If you cannot make a compelling case for support, the grantmaker will not be interested in partnering with your organization to help meet the community’s needs. A written grant plan (Project design) will help provide a roadmap for all of the next steps. It is like a strategic business plan for a company.
Grant research is another vital aspect of the grant life cycle. During the research process, we work hard to try to find a connection between the grantmaker and the organization for every proposal we submit. Many times, there is no connection, but we attempt to find one. Check out these 3 useful tips for identifying potential connections!
- Ask everyone in your organization. Ask others in your network.
- Make sure you are utilizing all your networking resources (school/program alumni groups, especially because colleges and universities are investing heavily in these resources for their grads and they are usually free)
- Use LinkedIn to check for connections
- If funding allows, LinkedIn Sales Navigator or Premium Business can be a great paid-for service to help understand your broader network connections and send direct messages
- If there is a connection, create talking points to have questions and main points ready for the conversation/email.
- Contact the funder whenever possible.
Make the Introduction
When reaching out to potential grantmakers, you must do your research. Funders want to know that you took some kind of effort to identify and understand their mission and the role their funding will play in your organization if awarded. Here are 9 introduction strategies to help you get started!
- Look for common connections through Linked In, as mentioned earlier, and other social media tools.
- Be proactive but not annoying. Contact the funders when possible. Some will not accept phone calls or emails. What do you do then? Send one pager’s, which is a brief, visually pleasing introductory message about your organization.
- When you do connect with someone, listen to the funder’s feedback.
- Ask clarifying questions, lots of questions.
- Respect their time and don’t become needy.
- Try having program staff present during the conversation to speak to the program specifics in the meeting.
- Send a thank you note/email
- Put them on your mailing list, and invite them to your social media sites where you will eventually brag about their gift endlessly. Invite them to your special events, NOT your annual gala, but another event/meeting that might resonate with the funder. Find out what else matters to the grantmaker.
- Ask grantmakers for feedback when the grant is awarded. Find out what was strong (Why they gave the award) and what could be improved upon. This could become a repeatable process.
By engaging foundation funders in this way, you’ll increase the likelihood that your organization will get funding, and keep them better informed about what their grants make possible, and you’ll secure valuable feedback about your project (Instrumentl, 2023). If we’re going to progress with some of the deeply ingrained, systemic inequities in our society, we must come up with enduring solutions. That’s where relationships come in. When funders consider giving to an organization, they want to make sure projects are worthy and they can actually see that impact within the targeted community. Communication and investing in building sustainable relationships can prove to be fruitful for all parties involved and ultimately help many more people in need.