Grant funding can be incredibly beneficial for organizations, but for some, handwringing ensues anytime a grant funder is mentioned. Funders tend to loom large in the development world, almost as if they are mythical dragons hoarding mountains of gold. They can feel intimidating to approach. But working with grant funders does not have to be a stressful process! There are many ways to build long-lasting relationships that turn into partnerships and increase ROI along the way.
Before approaching any grants funder, make sure you do your homework. That means knowing what the grantor’s mission and funding priorities are. If a funder wants to help animals, don’t approach them with a summer camp project. Research their past giving activity on their 990s to understand what an average gift amount looks like and where they have donated in the past. This simple research can help gauge whether your organization is a good fit to apply for funding.
The Gatekeepers are the front lines for the funder. They can potentially make or break your application. These are the unsung heroes of the foundation office, handling most of the administrative work. Frequently, they are the ones opening the mail with the proposals and sifting through them first before they go to the board of directors for a final look.
Don’t throw out your regular moves management system or donor process for grant funders. They’re just like regular donors, but you know they have funds to give out, and there tends to be more paperwork involved. You still want to ensure you identify, qualify, cultivate, ask, and steward your potential grant funders. It’s usually easier to work a donor cycle on grant funders because many have published application deadlines. They tell you who to talk to and what to ask. It can feel like a mystery with individual donors on how much to ask for and when the best time is to ask. With grant funding, that mystery is almost wholly removed.
Treat funders like people—because they are people! More and more funders are looking to be partners in philanthropy. They are mandated to give money as private foundations, but they also want to be involved in the process. If you meet with funders, do not treat them like an ATM. Get to know them on a professional and personal level. They want to talk about their foundation but tend to get asked the same questions repeatedly. Give them a chance to talk about other things they are passionate about and build those bonds!
Not hearing “thank you” is the biggest complaint among grant funders, both small and large. The application is approved, the funder mails the check, and then…radio silence. In fundraising, you can never say thank you enough, and not saying it at all can be the death-knell to your painstakingly cultivated relationship. Once you deposit the check, call the funder to let them know it was received and thank them. Once your program or project is up and running, let them know how their funding is making an impact, even if reporting is not required. Showing your heartfelt appreciation will strengthen your relationship in the long run and could result in more significant gifts down the road.
For more information on this topic, be sure to tune into BryteBridge’s webinar on October 20, 2021, at 11 am EDT/ 10 am CT! BryteBridge Nonprofit Solution is partnering with Nonprofit Hub for an educational hour on Finding Funding & Building Relationships with Grant Funders, which will expand on these topics and provide even more insight. Registration is open, and we hope to see you there! If you can’t make it to the live session, you can still register and receive the on-demand recording.
*This spotlighted blog post is courtesy of BryteBridge Nonprofit Solutions