By Michele Mosley, MSW, Grants for Growth Consultant
‘Tis the season for holiday greetings and heartfelt messages of appreciation to your supporters. As you put the final touches on your beautiful, glittery cards, make sure not to forget about the grantmakers supporting your organization’s work! Remember that foundation officers and admin staff are people, too, and should be cultivated like your other donors (unless you’re working with a large corporate or federal funder that actually lets you know that they DON’T care to receive correspondence from you aside from your scheduled reports – save your postage on them).
As someone who has been on both sides of the philanthropic table, feverishly sending out holiday cards with my nonprofit development team, and also receiving greetings from grantees as a foundation program manager, I’ve developed great appreciation for the time and energy that goes into correspondence this time of year. Here are a few tips to stand out by helping grantmakers smile this holiday season:
- Personalize a letter or greeting card with a short, hand-written note in ink. Use a color different from the printed ink, so it stands out more.
- If you can, involve your organization’s clients/members in some way. We all love to see photos, videos, or artifacts demonstrating the success of organizational programs. Live footage is gold, and cute kids get extra points!
- Invite funders to attend an end-of-year special event for clients (NOT a fundraising event). It’s a longshot that someone actually attends, but invitations are appreciated, and if they do show up, they’ll love meeting the people who drive your organization’s mission.
- Schedule a call or meeting to share your gratitude en vivo, in addition to or in place of a greeting card. Even a heart-felt voice message can do the trick. Taking time out for a personalized interaction shows that you care and helps to grow meaningful relationships.
- Send a bland greeting card absent of your organization’s logo or meaningful identifying information. If you’re going to kill a couple of trees, at least try and make it worthwhile!
- Wait until the last few days of the year to send communication. It will look like an afterthought, which it likely was; you’ll be better off waiting until the new year to send season’s greetings.
- Include a monetary ask. That’s what year-end appeals are for. Let your greeting card be just that, a holiday greeting! Mixing messages will be perceived as tacky and disingenuous.
- Forget to send a note or make a call specifically to your contact at the foundation. Oftentimes correspondence is addressed only to the top leader, but the program/admin staff are usually your lifeline. Let them know you appreciate their work on your behalf!
- Send a virtual scheduling link (think Calendly) to schedule the call or meeting suggested in the “Do” list above. Some funders HATE this and see it as rude (more on this point in a future post).
You’ll notice there are no Dos or Don’ts with regard to “snail mail” versus electronic correspondence because it completely depends on the preferences of your audience. Generally, a lot of people appreciate getting traditional mail, especially if it’s personalized and it’s not soliciting them for anything. Some, especially the more environmentally conscious among us, might prefer to receive e-greeting cards. Either way, you risk both forms of communication getting lost in the holiday clutter, which is why trying to schedule or make an impromptu end of year call might really help you to stand out (it could also be much more cost effective, depending on your staff bandwidth).
Ultimately, try to learn and understand your audience, funder or not. Think about what you enjoy seeing, hearing, and/or feeling during the holiday season. Does the correspondence you’re sending out make you smile? Would you want to be on the receiving end of your glittery card? If the answer is, “Meh, not really,” you might reconsider your approach.
Questions about how to cultivate relationships with your funding partners? Contact Let’s Build Hope: (314) 716-2496 or LetsBuildHope@lbh-stl.com.
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