How are your funding relationships doing?
Most of us in the nonprofit world are well aware that our organizations thrive or fail based on the quality and number of relationships. Relationships with donors, relationships with patrons, and relationships with other organizations are all areas of primary focus for smart nonprofits. However, many organizations overlook one very important opportunity for relationship building and it often affects their bottom line: grant funders.
Many in the grant world have a tendency to send off our grant proposals, cross our fingers, and then whether we hear a ‘yes' or a ‘no' to our proposal that's usually the extent of our contact with that grant-maker aside from any required reports. But this is a critical mistake and if you find that your organization doesn't seem to be pulling in the grant awards that it should, it's possible this is something you've overlooked.
Luckily, this is easy enough to fix. I've broken down an easy process below to help you start re-structuring the way you approach grant-writing.
A new way to approach getting grant funding:
1. First, reframe the relationship you want to build with grantmakers in your mind. Start thinking of it the same way you or your development director think of building relationships with potential or long-standing donors. This should be a back-and-forth, friendly relationship. You need to get on a first-name basis with grantors and make sure they know who you and your organization are.
2. Make at least one phone call BEFORE you put in your grant application (unless you see any specific instructions not to call. Always respect their requirements). When you call, introduce yourself, give them a brief synopsis of your organization and the program you are looking to fund. Let them know you intend to apply for the grant and ask if there is any additional information they can share with you about the grant or how its ultimately reviewed that can help your organization have the best chance at receiving funding. Before you get off the phone, thank them for their time and make sure you give them your contact details.
3. Don't be afraid to call them again and ask questions while you are working on the proposal. That's what they are there for. Plus, phone calls like these reinforce your name in their mind and show that you take the proposal process seriously.
4. After you've submitted your proposal, take the time to call again. Let them know you've sent in your materials and that you are always available if they have any questions about them or need additional information.
5. Once you get a yay or nay on the grant award call your contact again. If you've received funding make sure to thank them. Offer them tickets or the opportunity for a site visit (or whatever your particular organization can offer). Confirm any required reporting details. And if there is no required reporting (this is rare but it does sometimes happen), let them know that you will send periodic updates anyway. This keeps you in their good graces and lets them know you see yourself as a steward of their funding, not just a recipient they'll never hear from again.
6. Make sure to check back in with them either every time you send a report or at least at periodic intervals to share stories and anecdotes about the program they are funding. Photos or videos are always nice to pass along, too.
All of this does require a bit of extra effort and trust me, I do realize that time is a hot commodity amongst overstretched nonprofit staff. But if you put in the time to do all or some of these steps I promise they will pay dividends…literally!
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