Get Beyond Words – Show Accountability & Appreciation
An apology and thanks are similar in that they can be like candy: inexpensive, easily given out, and last only for the moment. If you want to prove that your sentiment is truly genuine, then you need to back it up by taking action.
When an organization’s action, or lack of action, upset a donor, offering only an apology is not the solution. The more meaningful tack is to show accountability by quickly recognizing the organization’s error through an apology and then demonstrating sincerity by taking steps to correct the error. If the error was caused by organizational or policy issues, it may also be necessary to involve the organization’s board members to identify those issues and implement changes that ensure the mistake won’t be repeated.
By taking action and showing accountability, the organization/donor relationship will be mended and possibly strengthened. We are all human after all, and mistakes will happen, but not taking action to correct the mistake will not only damage the relationship, but it will damage the organization’s reputation as well.
Thank you’s are easily dispensed and carry little weight if honest appreciation is not shown. To truly show gratitude, an act of appreciation should proportionally reflect the value of the donor’s contribution.
By offering more than just a spoken apology or thanks and thoughtfully demonstrating your appreciation, you will prove to a donor that their impact will not be forgotten by your organization.
4 Stages of Nonprofit Grant Seeking
It’s essential to have proper stewardship of your alumni donors in order to keep them involved and open to providing additional funding in the future. We suggest that all nonprofits follow the 4 Stages of Nonprofit Grant Seeking, which include:
- Inquiry = Expectation
- Courtship = Enthusiasm
- Award = Excitement
- Post = Appreciation
Now, it’s important to note that the first three steps are innately part of the granting process; however, it’s the fourth step that is the most crucial in maintaining a donor relationship for future grant seeking.
A donor’s belief that their gift was not appreciated is the most common reason why they won’t give again. Don’t make that mistake of ignoring the fourth, most important, step.
A donor will never forget, but they may forgive
Whether wittingly or unwittingly, the result is the same – once a donor has been mistreated, the negative experience will linger in their minds, and in their chatter around the morning coffee pot, for much longer than you would wish. In the equine world, they say a horse will never forget, but it can forgive; in the donor world, the same saying applies.
While a donor will never forget, there is a slight chance—and I mean slight chance—that you can help them forgive. Overcoming a mismanaged donor’s apathy will not be easy; it will take time, patience, and commitment. Here are a few tips to help tip the change:
- Don’t make it a single-person effort. When you have a positive relationship with a donor, it’s okay to assign a single person to maintain that relationship; however, when you have to rebuild a relationship with an intransigent donor, you must involve the organization as a whole. Be sure to include the executive director, any relevant staff, and any board members whose involvement may be helpful.
- Make meaningful connections through various avenues. Outline specific ways you’ll connect with the donor on a regular basis. Consider in-person meetings, phone calls, hand-written notes, and regular updates regarding your organization.
- Be consistent with your follow up. Staff and board members come and go; it’s important for the donor to recognize your organization has policies and procedures in place for consistent communication.
- Stay with it. Your donor needs to know you’re in it for the long haul. Once you embark on the effort to win back a displeased contributor, you must be constant; I can assure you that there will be no third chances.
Donors are crucial to the fundraising success of your nonprofit. The best strategy is to ensure your contributors are treated with consistency, constancy, and respect throughout the life of the relationship. The time spent doing so is a much better investment than time spent rectifying a lost relationship.
Ask for a Grant, not a Gift.
When applying for a grant, be thoughtful as to whether you’re asking for a Grant or a Gift. There is a significant difference between the two, which should be understood and which a Grantor will quickly recognize.
A Grant emphasizes responsibility on behalf of the recipient prior, during, and after the grant has been awarded. A Grant-based request commits your actions, policies, and efforts towards building long-term relationships. Emphasis on proper management of the grant and responsiveness to recognizing grantors well after the funds have been spent is an essential part of the process.
A gift implies symbolic efforts, immediate excitement, and short-lived appreciation. A gift-based request, by and large, is more of a solution to a problem—to resolve organizational matters or to finance items that are more of a wish list than an organizational objective. A Gift simply provides a means to an end rather than improve fundamental organizational matters for long-term success.
Why it matters
As a Grantor, the Hind Foundation looks for indicators that might reveal whether an organization’s request is from a Grant or Gift perspective, and we know we’re not the only foundation to do so. To avoid misrepresenting your intentions, answer questions thoroughly, show an in-depth knowledge of the project and how it relates to your goals, respond timely to requests, and demonstrate the impact the grant will have on your organization and/or project. There is a difference between something that will truly be beneficial and game changing versus something that would be nice to have—and that’s the difference between a Grant and a Gift.
Knowing how much to ask for and how to make it happen – it’s a science.
A donation or grant request should not be of pure hope; there should be some calculated science behind these requests. Prior to asking for money, you need to understand how much to ask for and how to make it happen; it’s all about effective preparation, which can be accomplished in three steps.
Step 1: Do Your Research
When Asking for a Donation…
- Gather names of individuals likely to donate.
- Estimate the amount they may be capable of donating and their interest level.
- Find people who are familiar with each prospective donor, and request an introduction.
When Asking for a Grant…
- Study the foundation or grant provider’s history of awarded grants to become familiar with what might be a reasonable request.
- Take time to ensure that the budget, forecast, and supportive materials you provide to the foundation or grant provider support the grant amount you are requesting.
- Ensure all communication with the grantor is consistent. Inconsistencies will create doubt, which is a cardinal sin when you are in the beginning stages of establishing creditability.
Step 2: Find the Right Person to Ask
Not all people feel comfortable asking others to give. Some are at ease selling raffle tickets to anybody, while others don’t want to bother people with such requests but will be completely at home asking a donor for $50,000. Find the right person who will best represent the amount being asked for.
Step 3: Be Confident in your Request
Don’t be afraid to ask for the amount you have ascertained. Your confidence will come from the research you have done and the passion you have for the project. Timidity comes across as uncertainty not only for you but the project itself. Good luck, and remember your dedication, research, conviction, and enthusiasm will create the reward.
Relationships Rule; Make Yours Count
As a nonprofit, developing lasting contacts with donors and grantors is essential because it’s relationships that carry the day.
Never Have Just One Point of Contact
What we often see at the Hind Foundation is that grantors only have direct communication with the Executive Director or an individual in an equivalent role. The problem? If that single point of contact leaves the organization, all of the existing grantor relationships with leave with him or her, which can be fatal to an organization. To overcome this common dilemma, share knowledge and put processes in place.
It is essential that the President and board members are aware of all relationships, inquiries, and grants in process. Most importantly, multiple board members should be in contact with donors either through visits, phone conversations, or other correspondence.
Put Processes in Place
When things get busy, it’s easy to have poor internal communications, which results in poor communication and slacking relationships with donors. The key to overcoming this too common obstacle is to put internal processes in place to ensure that you maintain necessary relationships. Here are 5 processes we suggest you implement in your policies and procedures:
- If a key personnel is leaving your organization, large donors should be notified by a titled person of your organization prior to any public announcement.
- Staff should be aware of important donors to ensure that all contact with that donor is consistent. You need to make sure staff recognizes the importance of their potential contribution so that the donor feels the significant impact they have in your organization.
- Give monthly updates on all projects that the donor is interested in, and assign occasional correspondence by an staff member or President/VP to discuss the project.
- Even after the grant has been awarded, contact with the donor should be maintained. Sending standard mailers requesting donations that are bulk mailed doesn’t qualify as staying in touch, even if one handwrites a personal note on the form mailer.
The Visit: don’t underestimate it
Don’t underestimate the importance of a foundation representative coming to tour your office or project or to discuss your request—be prepared. Know that this is where your grant dollars will be tested. You may not be aware of it but during the visit you are being judged as to whether you will receive your full request, a lesser amount, or be denied all together. If you take the time to plan for a successful visit all the way from beginning to end, it won’t go unnoticed.
Prepare Staff & Board Members
It is important that everyone is knowledgeable and informed about the project to avoid possible discrepancies in responding to questions that are generated during the course of the visit. Consistency in answers and knowledge of the project are the positive impressions you want communicated.
Welcome with Open Arms
Little touches like having a welcome sign with the foundation’s name on it or reserving a parking space for them will make for a great first impression. Have a good representative of your organization as part of the welcoming group, and also make sure all volunteers, receptionist, staff, and board members are aware of who is coming and why.
Offer A Round Table Discussion
After the tour or site visit, sit down for a round table discussion with everyone present. This will give the grantor time to ask additional questions and get to know your organization more personally. Especially for an important financial request, always include a board member, the president, executive director, and any project specialist in the meeting.
Follow Up Immediately
A follow up letter should be promptly sent to the potential grantor. Provide any information that was committed to be sent and thank them for their interest and effort to visit your organization. If there is a delay on your side to retrieve specific information they requested, then start with a thank you letter and follow up with the additional information at a later date. If no attempt to follow up is made you will give the impression that the project is not a priority within the organization, resulting in the grantor postponing their decision.
3 Steps to Overcome Digital Boundaries
As more and more grant applications are required to be submitted online, it’s even more important to focus on building strong personal relationships. To do so, you’ll need to overcome some digital boundaries. Here are 3 ways to do so:
- Make sure your first contact is one you can build on. A dubious start will forever haunt the grant process. Read the guidelines and restrictions carefully before applying. If there are some questions as to the appropriateness or compatibility, contact the grantor and inquire. Be sure to demonstrate that you have read the requirements and be ready to show how you would be a good fit.
- Once you begin the online application process, read all the questions first. Should there be questions that need further investigation, compile the correct information before starting. Don’t try to cut and paste answers that don’t really apply in order to complete the questions. Not responding specifically to the question’s intent reveals that you’re either not taking the time, you can’t honestly provide an answer, or you have anticipated that a well-written response will disguise the failings of a good response.
- Don’t let the application process drag on. Allowing online applications sit incomplete over several weeks with little or no action will not promote your cause. Experiencing difficulties in completing questions are not uncommon and may require more research or even board participation. Contact the grantor to let him or her know that you are pursuing the correct information, which may involve time, new policies, board involvement, or reorganization.
Don’t Let Silence Speak for You
One of the most frequent mistakes organizations make is allowing too much time to elapse between showing interest in applying for a specific grant and actually submitting an application for it. The longer it takes to respond, the greater the chance you have of lessening the grantor’s enthusiasm and giving them an area of doubt about funding your project. It is understandable that delays happen, so if there is a reason you’re response will be delayed, speak up – don’t let silence speak for you.
Once you have committed to apply for a grant, it is incumbent upon you to be diligent of the time frame and correspond accordingly. From the grantor’s perspective, a delayed response is most always interpreted as a lack of importance, consequently, a lack of appreciation and respect, which to a grantor is their only currency.
As simple as it may sound, timely responses are the most often forgotten courtesy. In the competitive world of grants, small oversights add up to work against you. There are many uncontrollable issues that can potentially affect a relationship so why not minimize the ones you can control?
Don’t Get Greedy
Soon after receiving a grant from a donor is NOT the time to ask for additional donations. Honor the time condition that many organizations impose on larger gifts as it can vary from one to two years before another request will be considered. Avoid sending any annual/quarterly fund raising postcards or brochures; make the effort to single donors out of your fund raising mailing list. Donors appreciate a personal letter updating them on what’s happening and the projects that you are working on with NO solicitation of funds. If the donor is interested, they will inquire.
Inviting key persons or foundation representatives to an event should be done personally, not through a general letter mailer – no, not even with a hand-written note on the flyer stating, “hope you will come.” Major contributors are requested to come to numerous events; make the extra effort to invite them personally, providing a valid purpose for their attendance. Should they accept an invitation, avoid engaging in discussions of other potential projects that need financial support. Show your appreciation for their patronage, and for their attendance, by keeping the moment special, fun, and light.