You secured the grant. Fantastic. Now you’re submitting to other funders, you’ve moved on. But don’t forget about the foundation that just sent you a check. Don’t wait until the next deadline before resuming communication with them. This is what most nonprofits do and it’s unwise.
True, that the funder and its program officer have also moved on and are reviewing new submissions, but it’s still vital for your organization to remain on their radar because so much of fundraising has to do with building personal relationships. You want the program officer to champion your organization when you file a proposal for a renewal, or, possibly, remember your agency when they happen to have extra funds to distribute.
Here’s what to do: about halfway through the grant year, you should send a thoughtful letter aimed at reviving your program officer’s interest and good will. We call this is a cultivation letter.
What should it contain? An easy to read summation of the highlights of the past six months of your nonprofit’s operation. For example:
- In the past six months, 20 clients graduated from our program: 12 secured permanent jobs and another 8 obtained college scholarships.
- Our Board of Directors’ annual dinner yielded net revenue of $75,000.
- The boiler of our shelter broke down, and we met the challenge by creating a crowdfunding platform that within five weeks paid in full the cost of a replacement.
- Two new funders, the ABC Foundation and the XYZ Charitable Trust made awards of, respectively, $25,000 and $35,000.
- One of our clients was featured in an article in the New York Times. Here’s the link.
- To succeed retiring medical director Dr. Jones, we hired Dr. Smith, whose qualifications and experience are as follows…
- And always be sure to welcome them for a tour or an in-person update.
You should be compiling this type of information as a matter of course. The cultivation letter is for circulating word of these glad tidings. And don’t forget to invite the program officer to your special events (comp tickets are best). It’s all a matter of getting and keeping their attention; believe me this effort produces results.
We’ve seen funders make renewed awards solely on the basis of having received a cultivation letter and without us having to formally request a renewal. Recently, within two weeks of mailing a cultivation letter on behalf of one of our clients, the recipient responded by inviting our client to submit an application for a renewal—and for more money than the initial grant! We’ve also seen funders remember the agency at year’s-end when they had extra funds to distribute. If they have a failed grantee and hadn’t yet re-allocated the award money, they might remember your agency in this connection as well.
What techniques do you use to stay in touch with your foundations supporters?