Cultivating a relationship with potential funders can increase your chances of getting a grant proposal funded. In The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Grant Writing by Waddy Thompson (Franklin Public Library call number CC 658.15224 THO), cultivation is defined as “means of educating a funder or donor about a charity in preparation for a solicitation.” It makes sense, right? The more a foundation (or any donor) knows about your organization, and the more chances they have to see you in action, the more likely they may be to fund your projects.
In our rural area, we may not always have the chance to cultivate foundation funders face-to-face, but that doesn’t mean we should neglect this crucial aspect of foundation fundraising. Here, five ways to cultivate a realtionship with your potential foundation funders without meeting face-to-face.
- In all correspondence, reinforce connections between your organization’s mission and the foundation’s interests. Express your nonprofit’s connection to the foundation’s interests, but do so in your own natural language. Don’t just parrot the foundation’s mission back to them and say, “We care about these issues too.” Refer to grants they’ve given in the past, or organizations they have supported. If the foundation has sponsored any studies into your shared field of interest, read them and refer to them, perhaps even citing them in your proposal.
- Place an inquiry call to the foundation prior to submitting anything. If the foundation publishes a phone number, use it. Line up all the pertinent facts about your program and make a list of bullet points to refer to during the call if necessary. You may not get a chance to speak to someone who cares about your bullet points (like a program officer), but having them on hand in case you do can be a real lifesaver. If you only get the chance to speak with a secretary, ask for copies of every publication the foundation creates (annual reports, current and past RFPs, and the like), and also the name of the program officer to whom your inquiries should be addressed.
- Include the foundation on your organization’s mailing list. If you publish a newsletter, make sure the foundation receives it. If you send out a press release, make sure the foundation receives it. If you had a successful program, send photos to the foundation with a note saying something like, “Here is one way we use our donor’s funds to …”.
- How often is too often to contact a funder? It’s a delicate balance. Don’t be a nuisance, but don’t wait so long that they forget who you are. Every two weeks to once a month should be sufficient.
- Always say thank you. Send a thank you note to the funder, whether you receive the funding you requested or not.
Do you have any other ideas for cultivating relationships with potential funders? Share them in the comments.