By Beth Jantz, Senior Consultant, Grants for Growth
We all know that we should love on our individual donors, right? If you are on top of you game, you may even have a moves management process to make sure you are consistently building relationships with your major donors and bringing them closer to your mission.
But even if you have a flawless moves management process for individual donors, you might be leaving your biggest donors out in the cold!
Foundations and corporations are often the largest contributors to our organizations, and yet we tend to neglect them. Often, development officers think that the only time they need to talk to their funders is when they submit the grant, send the tax letter, and submit the final report.
There is a big problem with that kind of thinking: behind every funder, there is a person administering it. In the same way individual donors aren’t ATMs, neither are foundations. Imagine how much more warmly your grant proposal will be received if the program officer reading it knows you and your organization as more than just words on the page.
If you put the time and effort into cultivating a relationship with your institutional funders, you will see their commitment to your organization grow. Grant writing is fundraising, and fundraising is all about relationships!
So, what can you do to build relationships with your funders?
- Pre-proposal meeting: Two to six months before the proposal is due, reach out to the program officer to request a meeting or phone call. This is a great opportunity to share updates about your organization, ask about changes in the funder’s giving priorities, and request feedback on your planned request for funding. Many program officers are willing to share feedback if you ask early enough in the process. Don’t try to do this with two weeks left to the deadline and expect to get a happy program officer. Planning is key!
- A personal thank you: Of course, you are going to send the formal tax letter to acknowledge the gift, but think about creative ways to thank the program officer. Send a handwritten note, a video, a craft from your clients, a pie – use the same creativity you would for a major donor.
- Events: If your organization has holiday events for clients, hardhat tours of your latest capital expansion, press conferences, discussion panels, or any other unique non-fundraising event, call the funder personally to invite them to attend. If the funder hosts events, attend them.
- Social media: Throughout the year, tag the funder on social media and thank them for supporting your program. Follow their accounts, too, and like and reshare their posts.
- Voluntary reporting: If the funder does not require a report, write one anyway! Photos and client stories are key to building that human connection.
Overwhelmed yet? Don’t be! If you add funders to your moves management process, implementing this process will be a snap. You will be one of the few organizations that does, and you will stand apart from the crowd. A strong relationship with a foundation or corporation can pay dividends for your organization for years to come. Grant makers are often our biggest donors, and it’s about time we started treating them that way!
Want to chat about your grants and foundations strategy? Contact us – we want to hear from you: (314) 716-2496 or LetsBuildHope@lbh-stl.com.
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