JUNE 13, 2017

In the grant writer’s world of deadlines and word counts, it can be easy to forget that fundraising is about building relationships. And just like any relationship, the grantee-grantor relationship takes work.

When advising clients about strategies to cultivate and steward prospective or current donors, I like to encourage them to be “pleasantly persistent” in communicating with their point of contact. It is a fine balance: you want to come across as personable, credible, and eager to collaborate without being obnoxious. It’s a lot like dating, really.

Sometimes after an introductory meeting with a foundation there is a mutual desire to keep in touch, but no clear opportunity to submit a funding request at the current point in time. Or perhaps you have an existing donor from which you hope to secure a renewal grant next year. In both cases, it is important to stay on their radar.

Here are five suggestions for ways to be “pleasantly persistent” and keep your point of contact interested in your organization’s work to secure that invitation to apply or upgraded renewal grant next year.

1. Keep them engaged, and add a personal touch.

Invite your point of contact to your organization’s annual conference or any other relevant events you have throughout the year. Send a personal invitation – not just the standard email everyone receives – and always offer to comp the registration fee. For conferences with multiple sessions to choose from, offer a personalized itinerary with suggestions for which sessions she may be most interested in attending (be sure those sessions are likely to have the best speakers and most relevant content!) When at the event, remember to be a good host. Be sure that your contact is engaged and having a good time. If you are too busy coordinating the event, assign a staff member to thank her for attending.

2. Share relevant news.

When you come across an article that involves your shared professional interests, or if you or your organization are featured in an article, send your point of contact a link via email. Include a short personal note indicating you thought he might be interested in the item. Perhaps new research has just been released on a topic of mutual interest, or you’ve just read a magazine article that is relevant to a previous conversation you’ve had. Don’t overuse this tactic, and be sure the article or link is both recent and truly likely to be of interest to the recipient before hitting “send”.

3. Make sure they’re receiving key collateral (if they’re interested).

Share your organization’s newsletters or press releases – but only if they are truly newsworthy and include information that is relevant to the funder’s interests. It is always a good idea to include a personal note indicating why you thought she may be interested in seeing the item.

4. Send personal updates as they happen.

Did you just snap a great photo of your program in action or hear a compelling new anecdote from a constituent? While you should absolutely include these in an annual grant report, you don’t have to wait for the report to let your funder know about the great work you are doing. Send a short email with a fun and interesting program update to keep your point of contact in the loop. If you are still in the cultivation phase and the funder has not yet contributed to your organization, this can be a great way to keep them informed of your good work in the community.

5. Ask for their insight.

In many cases, foundation program officers are experts in the field in which they are making philanthropic contributions, and they are almost always well connected within the philanthropic community through affinity groups and grantmaker associations. Don’t be afraid to ask for their advice. They may have good insight about potential collaborators in the field, new programmatic models, or professional development opportunities for you or your staff. People love being asked for their advice; this is a great way to get to know the person, demonstrate your desire to improve your program, and learn from their expertise.

Are you “pleasantly persistent” in cultivating and stewarding donors? What other strategies do you use to develop relationships with funders? We’d love to hear your ideas! Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

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