Updated: Jul 20, 2022
One of the easiest traps to fall into with grant writing is radio silence. You spend countless hours researching a grant-maker and calling and emailing them to cultivate the relationship in hopes of a positively received grant request. You submit an amazing proposal that gets funded. Yay! And that's where you stop.
Why? You wouldn't do that to an individual donor who attended your gala and was inspired to make a major gift, would you? So why do we do it to grant-makers?
I can tell you why because I used to do it. I'm an expert on how to get this wrong. But, I've learned getting it right can result in more grants over a longer period of time. Win, win. From my experience, I think there are several reasons we don't thank grant-makers:
First, I think new grant writers can be intimidated by grantors. They envision this big wig CEO sitting in a board room decreeing recipients and grant amounts from on high. Not really an approachable picture, right?
And I think most fundraising professionals are overworked. We talk a lot about the value of stewardship. But, if something has to give, it's usually stewardship activities. When we have limited time and the options are sending an e-solicitation campaign or sending a thank you card, it can be hard to justify the time on the activity that may not immediately result in additional revenue.
Lastly, it's easier to forget about stewarding grant-makers. It's unlikely you're bumping into them at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast or shuffling past them on the way to the treadmill at the gym. Out of sight, out of mind. Since you don't have to worry about that awkward "I haven't heard from you since I wrote you a million dollar check" moment, it's easier to push post-grant follow up to the bottom of your To Do list.
But, there is value in stewarding grant-makers. Let me say it again for those in the back: thanking grant-makers can be just as critical for the long-term success of your nonprofit as it is stewarding individual donors. I might even argue it can be more critical. But, that's a different blog topic. Properly thanking grant-makers and including them in the story of your nonprofit could result in a life-long relationship that pays out in grant awards every year.
"Properly thanking grant-makers and including them in the story of your nonprofit could result in a life-long relationship that pays out in grant awards every year. "
First and foremost, you should acknowledge their gift. While we may call it a "grant," it is still a gift. Send a handwritten thank you note before your standard receipt goes out. Follow up with a call within a week or two. Those things should be standard. Make sure you ask how they'd like to be included in the work of your nonprofit. They may have specific requests (or may not want any stewardship), but be ready to suggest some ideas. I don't recommend implementing all of these suggestions for each grantor, but consider how you could connect with them in a way that feels natural. But the rule is: If they say "no contact," they mean no contact. If you're not sure, ask.
So how do you do it? Here are some ideas to get you started:
5 Ways to Say "Thank You" to a Grant-Maker:
1. Invitations to on-site events like open houses, donor recognition events, scholarship banquets, or set up a private tour.
2. Add them to your quarterly newsletter or annual report mailing list
3. Plan to send a post-grant report six months after the donation and again at twelve months, whether required or not. Keeping them in the loop on how and when you're spending their money will make them feel more confident about investing in your organization again in the future.
4. Send client impact stories related to their donation.
5. Share news about your organization and/or the program they supported. Get another grant that will help you accomplish your goals? Share the news with them! Overcome a significant hurdle? Let them know! Tell them none of this would be possible without their contribution.
What are some communication vehicles unique to your organization that would engage a grantor and help them feel as though they are a part of your mission at work?
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