R is for Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

R is for Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

I attended a webinar hosted as part of the Xfactor Collective’s excellent RESET program last week, and loved this soundbite from Kimberley Downes, Xfactor Collective Specialist. “Fundraising is transactional, whereas philanthropy is a relationship.” Yes, yes, yes! I nodded enthusiastically to the screen. What a great reminder – and put so succinctly – to foster relationships with philanthropic funders. Engaging funders and taking them on a journey with your project and organisation needs to be one of the foundations of your grants program. And in these times of Covid-19 uncertainty and economic downturn, never has the relationship piece been more important.

For many of us lockdown has inspired us to apply a Marie Kondo lens to our life: from clearing out cupboards to reflecting on what is really important to us, what to keep and what to throw out. This is a good time to be doing some Life Laundry around your organisation’s policies, processes, strategies and systems.

What about starting by cleaning up your CRM system? Have you captured, and are you capturing, all the touch points that different people across the organisation have with funders and grant-makers? There’s nothing worse than a grants person calling a trust officer to sound them out about a project only to find their CEO had a chat with them the week before. It doesn’t look good! But, sadly, it does happen. I’ve experienced it first-hand! Whether our interactions with funders are at conferences or events (remember those face to face meetings?!), over the phone or via e-mail, there are often nuggets of information we should be noting down. Maybe a funder will share a personal story and provide insight into their funding motivation and decisions.

Another relationship 101 is to remember to listen to what the funder has to say – otherwise you’ll miss the gold. If we are nervous about calling a grant-maker, we may be so driven to pitch our project – and get it over the line – that we forget to have a two-way conversation. Sorting through some of my files from a good few years ago I came across a wonderful quote I often included in my training workshops: “Fundraising is essentially about listening to people. This applies to corporations, to trusts and foundations, and to individuals…. Before you start talking about your needs, find out all you can about the potential donor – what they want to do and what they are looking for. If you don’t do that, you can’t know if your project matches the donor’s aims. The main thing is to listen carefully.” Trevor Hancock, International Fundraising Consultant

Another relationship essential is to thank funders, and thank them again, highlighting the impact of their funding. It seems a no-brainer but feedback from funders continues to be that many organisations score very poorly when it comes to the thank-you piece. Having a clear process around the acknowledgement, recognition and reporting should be part of your funder engagement strategy.

Given the encouraging results from Philanthropy Australia’s ‘Grant-Maker Survey Response to C-19 May 2020’ last week (https://www.philanthropy.org.au/images/site/news/2020/GrantMaking_survey_C19_25_May_2020_v2.pdf) – 88% of respondents report increased flexibility around giving, and over 50% say they will maintain or increase giving levels despite the decline in the value of their corpus – now is a good time to update your funder engagement strategy, or to create one if you don’t already have one. Are you clear who in your organisation is the best person to speak to the funder – is it the grants person or should it be the relevant program manager or your CEO? Are your board involved, and are they active in identifying connections to PAFs and major donors in their networks? Have you identified the key prospects you plan to approach and done thorough project matching? Are you up to date with your acquittals?

If you need help, guidance or training around how to develop a funder engagement strategy, or with any aspect of your grant-seeking, please get in touch with me on 0431 865248 or email me at charlotte@charlottefrancis.com.au