On Relationships

Relationships are to fundraising as water is to sustaining human life. Essential. 

Yet, many organizations struggle with creating, maintaining, enhancing, and maturing relationships with their funders, supporters, and donors. The reasons are as diverse and as numerous as nonprofit organizations themselves: lack of time/resources/capacity, fear, misunderstanding of donor preferences, incorrect assumptions, the list goes on and on. 

In teaching courses on grant writing, development, and management to university students and professionals, I am often struck by how surprised my students are to discover that relationship building is central to becoming a successful grant professional. Understanding how to work successfully with different funders and supporters is a critical skill to develop that significantly improves both your allocation of time and effort, as well as outcomes with funders. 

It is critical as a grants professional to understand how to succinctly describe the work of your organization, frame the opportunity(ies) for investment/giving, understand deeply the interests and mission of your prospective funder in order to make a match, and jointly envision the outcome of investment in terms of the impact on your organization and the community/issue you serve.

Relationships with funders aren't built overnight, nor can they be sustained solely on the bare minimum (i.e. submitting reports on-time). Communication and touchpoints that go above and beyond the baseline requirements, but that are still within your capacity, are key to developing strong relationships with funders.