The Do’s and Don’ts in Communicating With Potential Funders
Do: Create Meaningful Connections
Build a relationship with your funders as you would other stakeholders and partners. Funders are people too, and while it may seem intimidating to initiate a relationship, donors are seeking a connection with the organizations they fund. Remember to stay in touch, even with one-time donations.
Thank-You’s can be a phone call, a mail card or an email. You could also get creative with social media or newsfeeds by showcasing the social impact the donations have made, such as through story sharing or traditional thank you bulletins that acknowledge your contributor’s gifts.
Don’t: Act Indifferent
Avoid treating your funder like a cheque book. When in communication, be friendly, positive and professional as you would with any other colleague. Be quick to respond to emails and have any needed reports, updates or financial information prepared. Don’t leave them hanging or begging to be in the loop; engage with them by whatever means you can and keep them updated with your organization’s work.
Tip: Prior to reaching out to potential funders, research who they are and what their goals are. Grant Advance’s Profile Pages can provide you with critical information that is often difficult to source. What is the funder’s giving history? What types of organizations/charities do they typically support? What is their mandate? Most importantly, How does your organization’s mandate align with that of the foundation?
Do: Speak Your Funders
Every funder will have a specific “language” that they use to communicate with. In this case, language can be thought of as like a “personality” or “lens” that the donor is speaking or looking through. Part of understanding the language they speak is understanding their core values and who their target audience is. For example, some donors will speak to the urgency of under-represented groups through the value of fostering community empowerment. Others will be very specific in the sector they are looking to engage with and will use terms that speak to the knowledge of that sector. Government grant streams typically use more formal language, but generally hold very specific criteria within applications. Responding to donors meaningfully indicates you have been able to put yourself into their ‘seat’ and demonstrate parallels with their mandate and core values.
Don’t: “Reply All”
Best to avoid sending the same generic application to a random selection of donors. Most funding officers can easily see through this tactic. Ensure that who you are connecting with makes good business sense for both parties. Knowing your donors’ overall goals and fundamental purposes is just as critical as knowing their language. Find your donor’s priorities by visiting their website or by joining webinars that offer information about the specific funding guidelines. If you are unsure, don’t assume- just ask. Generally, funders are well prepared to answer almost any question. But by being specific in your questions, it shows you’ve put effort into seeking a partnership with them by doing the work to know who they are and what they are all about.
Do: Have a Strategic Plan & Clear Objectives
Funders are looking for a story they can see potential in and maybe even be inspired by. Making it to ‘the short list’ means the funder is curious for more details. They are intrigued and will want to learn more about the efficacy of the project. They will likely inquire more about your strategic plan and estimated measurable impacts. Be prepared to have some strategy plan that shows how key objectives will be met with the funding provided. In short, donors want some evidence to demonstrate how their funding leads to measurable outcomes, and this often means having some documentation in place that tells that story.
Don’t: Over or Undervalue your Data
Statistics are powerful when used wisely. Careful use of appropriate data can amplify your story and demonstrate how funds will be used. But be aware: using too much data or too little can undermine your narrative. Be cautious in the numbers and statistics you are providing. Too much data might confuse your audience and appear disjointed. Too little data misses the mark and leaves gaps in understanding. If you have data that can demonstrate to your funder the scope of the issue you are addressing or the size of impact your organization makes in the community, provide that data in a concise and clear manner. When used appropriately, data can complete the story by providing a type of footprint which funders appreciate.