It’s truly surprising how many nonprofits are successful at receiving a grant award and then never talk to their funder again until the next application deadline rolls around.
But you have no staff and even less time… don’t even go there!
You don’t want to be one of the organizations that takes the money and runs…even if it’s to run and do the project.
It may seem obvious, but grant writing is fundraising. And even though you’re submitting written proposals to a foundation, business, or funding agency, you still need to cultivate and develop an ongoing relationship with your funder. Despite limited staff and time, it is essential to keep your funder connected and engaged in your work.
Funders care deeply about their investments in nonprofits and want to know that they’ve made a good choice in supporting your project or programs that will benefit the community. Remember, too, that a foundation or business that gives you $1,000 today may become the funder who gives you $25,000 tomorrow. Keeping them engaged ensures you will be considered in the future.
So, how do you stay connected to your funders and even potentially increase their support, especially during uncertain times? Here’s three easy ways to keep that funding relationship going.
One, communicate frequently.
Yep. That means you start with a sincere and personal thank you for the grant award (which does not include an ask for more money!) to let them know how important their support is to your project and organization.
Then, regularly update the funder on progress with the program they’re supporting – key milestones or activities, especially ones they may want to participate in. Send them a personal email or make a phone call to talk about key activities in your organization so they know you care about keeping them in the loop. And always remember to express how grateful you are for their support.
Many foundations and public granting agencies require grantees to file interim or status update reports. Don’t neglect these reports and deadlines. This is a more formal way of communicating to your funder and keeping them involved in your organization. It also shows you are responsible stewards of their funding.
Two, make personal invites.
Don’t forget those personal invitations. Part of keeping in touch means personally inviting funders to special events and activities of your organization. Don’t just mail them an invitation to your biggest public event. Personally invite them to attend as your guest.
Extend an invitation to funders to “preview” special activities or offer to give them a tour of your facility or observe a service you’re providing to the community. Even if your event is virtual, make sure your funder feels welcome and included. If there’s an opportunity for them to be recognized or to say a few words, even better.
Personal invitations go a long way to helping build support for your efforts. Even government granting agencies want to know what you’re doing and often make site visits to know nonprofits better.
Three, ask for help and let your funder assist.
Especially in uncertain times or when challenges arise, make sure to keep your funder in the loop about how the difficulties are affecting your organization and what help you need. They may offer advice on programming to better serve the community or provide opportunities for collaboration. They also may be able to help financially, now or when funding becomes more available.
Give your funders a chance to provide input and make them more invested in your work. They are more apt to continue funding your efforts if they are involved, engaged, and inspired by what you do and know what your needs are now and for the future.
In your quest for grant funding, you may hear “no” more often than “yes.” You can learn from rejections and develop potentially positive relationships. You can also improve your applications and your funding chances.
Staying connected to potential funders is just as important as maintaining relationships with current funders. Building relationships paves the way for future funding.
Nonprofits need champions. Your grantors can be some of the best cheerleaders of your work. Don’t miss the opportunity to have them know all about your efforts, help you, and leverage other support. They will also be an integral part of your success as your organization moves to the next level.