20 Ways to Form (or Enhance) Relationships with Potential Grant Donors
September, 2008You’ve identified a potential grant funder for your organization. They have resources. Their stated goals and activities match your mission. Since your funding odds increase exponentially when you have a relationship, what steps can you take to create one? How can you help a potential funder to know your organization better?
On Your Own
- Easy First Step. Include them in your mailings.
- Still Easy. Invite them to your events.
- Read All About Us. Generate public relations articles that support your efforts. The Wall Street Journal recently reported a $2.5 million gift to a children right’s group. The relationship started when the donor read a newspaper article about the organization’s work and contacted them.
- Cut and Send. Assume that the public relations piece failed to reach all your intended recipients. Mail the article with a note.
- Most Wanted List. Keep an active list of top ten people you want to meet. Prior to events, review guest lists and seek an opportunity for introductions.
- Follow-up. Within 48 hours of your initial meeting, initiate a follow-up contact. For example, send a note, “It was great to meet you last night. Here’s the information about the program we discussed.”
- People Who Know People. To gain their help, share the list of people you want to meet with your board member, volunteers, staff and friends. Tip: If they have contacts, make it easy. Inquire about times they are together. Ask if you can be a guest at the gathering.
- People Who Know People and Let You Use Their Name. When people tell you they know someone, ask if it’s okay to mention your connection. Your conversation, with the potential donor, can begin, “Roger Nice-Guy suggested I contact you because of your interest in . . .”
- A Wonderful Donor Recommended I Contact You. Like above, this is a contact you initiate because an existing grant or other donor recommends them. In other words, don’t forget to ask your existing donors for referrals.
- Cold Call to Test the Water. Tell them, “I read about your interests in missions like ours and would like to invite you to tour our facility …”
- Cold Call with a Shallow Jump. Share that, “We would like to submit to your foundation. We have three possible projects. I’m calling/emailing/writing to ask which sounds most interesting.”
With an Application
- Put the Ball in their Court. Submit an application. Wait patiently and humbly. And perhaps, wait and wait and wait.
- Pending, Pending. Send a holiday card while you wait.
- Put the Ball in Your Court. First follow-up: unless the rules state otherwise, in your cover letter, inform the recipient when you will contact them. Then call. “I’m calling to confirm you received our application and to answer any questions you have.”
- Keep the Ball in Your Court. Second follow-up: 2. If you left a voice message above, follow-up via email, “Sorry to miss you the other day when I called.”
- Still Keep the Ball in Your Court. Third follow-up: make a final attempt if you’ve had no response with the above. “Hi, I ‘m calling to follow-up to the email I sent you…”
- Magic Follow-Up, When “No” Might Mean “Not Now.” After two months contact them again. “Thank you again for taking the time to review our application. I want to personally invite you to our event next month…”
- Magic Follow-Up, When “No” Is an Opportunity. Again in two months, contact them, “Thank you again for taking the time to review our application. I understand it’s not possible now. Do you know any individual or other foundation who might have an interest?”
- Magic, Wonderful Follow-Up. Do what the potential donor suggested when they turned you down (i.e., improve your board) and resubmit.
- Magic, Wonderful and Smart. Before you submit again, make the improvement as above and then (via a call or email) advise them of the changes you made. Thank them for their advice
Overtime, select the techniques that work for you. If one technique feels awkward or too pushy, adapt it or substitute another for it. The Key: Take action to meet new people with whom you can ignite and kindle a passion for your cause.Karen Eber Davis is a consultant, strategist, group facilitator and writer. As president of Karen Eber Davis Consulting, she draws on her full set of skills to help organizations plan and fund their way to excellence. Her firm has attracted such clients as the Red Cross, Circus Sarasota, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Suncoast Workforce Development Board, the Englewood Water District, Dreams are Free and more than 100 local, regional and national organizations. Her consulting work is respected for its innovation, enthusiasm and energy as well as its practical understanding of the spirit and psychology of nonprofit organizations. For more information, visit her website at http://www.kedconsult.com/
- Fulfill A Need. In a healthy relationship people find touch points. Look for these. What is happening with them? Can you help? Can you make a referral to one of your services or another entity?
- Say Thank You. In any case, say thank you. Philanthropy is a choice. When people are affirmed for that choice—sooner or latter, it helps your organization.
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