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Thanking foundations early and often

You received a grant? Congratulations! Often, the process of applying for grants feels impersonal. Unless the foundation has a site visit as part of the application, you might have a hard time envisioning the real people who said yes to your invitation to support your project. Even though you might be excited, you probably are not going to hug the mailman when you get the check.

Still, your response to the foundation should reflect your enthusiasm. But don’t let it stop there. By making a gift to your organization, the foundation has initiated (or renewed) a friendship with you. In fact, anyone who opens up a checkbook and writes out a four- or five-figure check deserves some love. So, here are some ways to extend that friendship and deepen it for a stronger partnership.

Pick up the phone and call

Larger gifts merit more attention, usually. Most fundraising consultants recommend a phone call for larger gifts from major donors. Any gift of over $1000 might prompt  a grateful phone call from the board chair. Or perhaps an email card from the executive director within 24 hours. So, share your excitement about the grant with your foundation contacts – they will enjoy hearing that fresh appreciation. If you just get the answering machine, go ahead and leave that joyful message.

Make your thank you note memorable

Most of the time, foundations make decisions in batches, approving only a fraction of the applications submitted. From their perspective, the stream of thank you letters coming in may be rather predictable. There may be online paperwork required to document receipt of the grant, and perhaps a signature form required. Follow their instructions to the letter.

But, you can also engage in some creative gratitude:

  • Enclose a personal, handwritten thank you note, signed by the whole staff.
  • Create a short video of your office celebrating with party hats and horns.
  • Put confetti in the envelope and mention how the grant had the whole office celebrating.
  • Enclose a piece of art from one of your children served. (If signed by the ”artist,” be sure to get permission from the artist’s parents.)
  • If the grant covers a physical upgrade, enclose a “before” picture and tell them you can’t wait to send them the “after” photo.

Share your good news with the world

Be sure to follow the instructions of your funder regarding public expressions of appreciation. Some will give you a template news release and specific instructions for sharing the great news about your grant. Some prohibit any public announcement of the grant and instruct you to list them as an anonymous donor in your annual report. Respect those instructions and follow them completely.

If the foundation wants the publicity, make it happen!

  • Make sure your news release reads like a regular news article. Most newspapers are desperate for free content.
  • Pictures and quotations help sell your story to the editor or TV producer.
  • Send the press release to newsrooms and TV stations but follow up with a phone call. Or call the reporters first, and then send the press release.
  • Invite any reporter who responds for a site visit.
  • Identify and get permission from a happy client to be ready to talk with the media about the wonderful project that was funded.
  • Put your funder’s logo on your website supporters page.
  • Make sure that the donation and impact is reported in your e-newsletter or print newsletter.
  • Share the good news on your social media feeds as well.

Stay in touch

If one of your friends handed you a check for $1000 and asked you to do something specific with it, you would want to let them know how it’s going, right? So, don’t be a stranger to your funders. Here are some ways to stay in touch:

  • Put them on your e-news list.
  • Send a quarterly insider’s newsletter by snail mail.
  • Invite them for a site visit to correspond to milestones in your grant project.
  • Ask them for advice. Most foundations have a front row seat at a variety of nonprofits. They may have excellent ideas to solve some problems you have.
  • Follow the foundation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • Set up a Google alert on the foundation, so you can track the projects the foundation funds.
  • Email a video of a client testimonial at the halfway mark of the project.

Start working on your grant report early

Don’t let those grant reporting deadlines gob smack you at the last minute. Communicate to your staff the grant outcomes expected right from the start, as well as the time frame for reporting. If a new data set is being tracked, make sure it is easy for staff to update it…and make sure to assign that duty to someone reliable.

  • Benchmark your data monthly. And if you are exceeding expectations, be sure to send a happy email to your funder to tell them the good news!
  • Track expenditures monthly as well. If your project is over budget, you may need to let a funder know and ask for advice.
  • If your project lends itself to tracking in a chart, create the chart now. You might need to submit a mid-year report, and this chart will make it easy.
  • For facility upgrades, grab your cell phone and take pictures every month or so. You can email a picture to the funder to share your excitement in the project.

One word of caution: if the foundation representative does not respond to your updates, don’t take it personally. They may simply not have the time to do so, but that does not mean that your attention to detail was ignored.

If you follow these tips, your new friends at the “XYZ” Foundation may feel that they have invested in a real partnership with your organization. They may be more inclined to fund other projects that you bring to them in the future. And, they will know without a doubt that you are grateful for their generous investment in your mission.

If you would like personalized help in managing grants for your nonprofit, contact Upstream Consulting today!

Kristen West McGuire
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Grant Management

September 8, 2020

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