The importance of maintaining relationships with funders (especially in uncertain times!)

With trust fundraising becomingly increasingly competitive, meaningful relationships with your funders is more important than ever (especially in these unprecedented times).

Getting a grant is only the beginning.  In this competitive field, high quality proposals and reports are the bare minimum. Building a genuine relationship with your funders is essential to ensure you stand out from the crowd and increase the likelihood of your relationship continuing in the long-term.

All funders are different in terms of the level of contact they require from their grantees, and there are some who prefer no contact at all (which should always be respected). It’s important to get the balance right, so you need to start by ensuring you know the level and frequency of contact that your funder wants. From there, you can build a stewardship/communication plan which is tailored to the wishes of each individual funder. People at all levels of your organisation should be involved in building the relationship, from your CEO to frontline staff to beneficiaries (where appropriate).

Where possible, you should try to go above and beyond the minimum requirements of each funder. The objective should be to ensure their experience of supporting your organisation is a positive and fulfilling one, which makes them feel good about the grant they have made to your charity, and demonstrates that their support really is making a difference.

Building a more in-depth relationship with a donor also enables you to learn more about their interests and motivations. You may find out snippets of information which enable you to tweak or tailor your reports or applications to be even more relevant to their interests, or share stories of your work which you know would have more resonance with them. This deeper understanding of their motivations may even lead to further opportunities or open up doors (for example, with some of their funder contacts) which you hadn’t anticipated.

Contact them with news about successes or unexpected outcomes of the project and its progress, or important changes in your organisation. Building trust with your donors also means being honest with them about things that haven’t gone as well as you expected. If there are issues, be transparent and show them how you are responding to address or overcome these issues. Funders appreciate this honesty, are usually understanding that things in ‘real life’ don’t always go to plan, and are flexible if this means you may not be able to deliver exactly what you had promised. In fact, they are much more likely to be understanding if they hear about it when the issue arises, rather than months or years down the line in the final report.

As a result of the Covid-19 crisis, your funders are likely to be keen to find out how they can support your organisation, both financially, or by providing flexibility in grant arrangements if you are adapting or expanding your work to address the impact of the crisis on your beneficiaries. The sustainable, long-term support of funders who are engaged with and committed to your work will be vital to ensure your organisation has the resources required to weather this storm, ensuring your beneficiaries get the support they need both now and in the aftermath of the pandemic.

If you would like support from Bright Ideas on reporting to funders, or on donor stewardship, please get in touch.