Note from Diane:
You may not know that we’ve worked with Bloomerang for numerous years through both the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference which they are the sponsor of, through one-hour educational webinars I present to their audience, and also through scholarships they have provided to BIPOC nonprofit professionals to attend our Scrum Basics for Nonprofits course. That’s why I was thrilled to have them offer a guest post for us with their take on maintaining relationships with grantmakers as another way to help you think about taking the stress out of grants.
Your nonprofit spends a lot of time building and maintaining relationships with donors. From sending handwritten thank you letters to hosting in-person meetings and appreciation events, you devote a lot of time and resources to ensuring these relationships are strong.
Do you put that same time and effort into strengthening relationships with grantmakers? Just like your donors, grantmakers help your organization thrive and launch new programs. Building genuine relationships with them is the key to winning more grants and maintaining ongoing relationships with funders that will continue to benefit your organization in the long term.
Forming strong relationships with grantmakers starts with treating them as individuals and taking a tailored stewardship approach when connecting with them. Get started using these four tips:
- Tailor your grant proposal to the grantmaker.
- Keep grantmakers in the loop.
- Ask how you can support the funder.
- Show your appreciation.
Keep reading to learn more about these tips.
1. Tailor your grant proposal to the grantmaker.
Like donors, grantmakers will appreciate being approached on a more personal level. This can also help your proposal stand out from the crowd.
The GrantsPlus guide to nonprofit grant writing recommends first looking to see if a member of your board, staff, or donor base has a connection with any grantmakers. This can help you get your foot in the door and strike up a dialogue with an individual who will decide whether or not to grant your nonprofit funding.
If you don’t have a connection already, you can always make one! Follow these steps to build relationships with grantmakers:
- Conduct prospect research on the funder. Before submitting your grant proposal, learn everything you can about the grantmaker and their organization. Learn about their organization’s purpose and mission, the history of the grant, and any details you can find on the grantmaker. This will allow you to tailor your grant proposal with a more personalized touch, making it more relevant and engaging for the recipient.
- Try to get in touch with the grantmaker before you apply. Avoid submitting a cold grant proposal. Unless prohibited by the organization, reach out to the grantmaker to start building a rapport. Don’t ask them point blank if your grant application will be accepted—that would be a bit too pushy. However, it’s appropriate to ask clarifying questions about the application process or the grantmaker’s or organization’s mission and goals.
- Make profiles for your prospective grantmakers. Just as you create donor profiles in your donor database, you should create profiles for your potential grantmakers. Ensure each profile includes the person’s name and contact information, a record of your interactions and communications with them, and a list of the individuals from your team who have been in touch with the grantmaker. This helps you track every touchpoint you’ve had with the grantmaker and establish an effective communication cadence.
The more you learn about your grantmakers, the better you can tailor your communications (and, eventually, your proposals) to align with their motivations and interests. This will not only boost your chances of winning a grant, but it will also help you start building mutually-beneficial relationships with funding organizations.
2. Keep grantmakers in the loop.
By keeping in touch with grantmakers after you receive a grant, you show that you’re truly invested in building a long-term relationship with them.
Inviting grantmakers to witness your mission first hand gives them more meaningful insight into the impact of their support. You can keep grantmakers in the loop by:
- Inviting them to participate in your nonprofit’s events. Does your nonprofit have an upcoming gala on the books? Or perhaps a fundraising 5K or volunteer event? Invite individuals from the grantmaking organization to get involved and see your mission and the impact of their funding in action.
- Personalizing your messaging to each grantor. Segmentation is one of the most effective strategies at your disposal when it comes to personalized messaging. Bloomerang’s donor segmentation guide explains that the process involves “separating your nonprofit supporters into groups based on common qualities and characteristics they share.” By creating a segment for your grantmakers, you can ensure that the messages and invites you send to them are relevant to their interests.
- Requesting and implementing their advice. As you leverage grant funds to pursue valuable projects and programs, implement advice or guidance you receive from the grantmaker when applicable. This shows that you listened to them and value and respect their opinions.
Of course, your grantmakers will need to receive regular progress updates to ensure you’re using their funds wisely. They will often have very specific reporting standards spelled out in the grant’s requirements, so you’ll want to meet all deadlines and fulfill your obligations promptly.
3. Ask how you can support the funder.
One of the most effective ways to improve your relationships with grantmakers is to support the grantmaking organization.
Prove yourself to be a valuable partner by showing your willingness to support your funder by asking if they’d like your support with the following activities:
- Promoting the other organizations or projects that they fund. If your organization’s mission is aligned closely with your grantmaker’s audience, your audience may be interested in learning more about their mission, too.
- Promoting your relationship with the grantor. Highlight their generosity by posting on social media or sending email newsletters spotlighting your partnership.
Offering your support and acting as a trustworthy partner shows your grantmakers that your organization is worthy of their financial support. Plus, it allows you to make genuine partnerships in the nonprofit sector, strengthening your organization’s network.
4. Show your appreciation.
Just as you show appreciation for donors, volunteers, corporate partners, and other stakeholders, you should show appreciation for your grantmakers.
Any strong appreciation strategy starts with a heartfelt thank you letter. Be sure to address the letter with your grantmaker’s names and get specific about how their funds will be used to support your organization’s mission. You might even include photos or handwritten thank you notes from your volunteers and community members.
Then, take your appreciation efforts a step further by:
- Inviting grantmakers to an appreciation gala or dinner
- Highlighting them on your website and social media pages and in email newsletters
- Thanking them in your annual report and other public-facing documents
These appreciation efforts boost the chances of a grantmaker supporting your organization in the future, whether through giving an additional grant or by vouching for your nonprofit to other funding organizations.
Grantmakers supply your organization with some of the largest contributions you receive. These gifts are important to your nonprofit’s vitality, meaning it’s crucial to have a dedicated strategy in place to build strong relationships with grantmakers. You’ll be able to continue benefiting from these mutually-advantageous partnerships for years to come.
Guest blog by Jay Love Co-Founder and current Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
He has served this sector for 33 years and is considered the most well-known senior statesman whose advice is sought constantly.
Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth.
He is a graduate of Butler University with a B.S. in Business Administration. Over the years, he has given more than 2,500 speeches around the world for the charity sector and is often the voice of new technology for fundraisers.