Pursuing grants is hard work. Grants are time-consuming, very competitive, and after all the time, money, and energy spent writing grants, there is no guarantee that your nonprofit will be awarded. However, there is one thing every nonprofit must do regardless of whether you write the grant yourselves or outsource it to a grant writing and nonprofit consulting firm like Think and Ink Grants (www.thinkandinkgrants.com).
The one thing every nonprofit must do cannot be outsourced - the funder wants to hear directly from you. It will take a systematic and strategic approach to design and implement a game plan. It will tax your already stretched capacity and take time away from completing your ordinary day-to-day tasks.
This one thing, some would say the "secret sauce" and the most vital step before submitting any grant application; something all and every nonprofit should do is: building a relationship with the funder before applying.
I know. Many reading this article may say, "Shavonn, I already knew this. Tell me something new." Well, some of you'll have great intentions on building relationships with funders but maybe find yourselves falling short.
If this sounds like you, here are some tips:
Setup a relationship cultivation strategy: identify potential funders, determine the best way to engage them, and look within your network and within the network of your Board of Directors for some common connections for introductions.
Carve out time: Set dedicated time each week to execute your cultivation strategy. Some of my clients specifically block time on their calendars for this purpose.
Delegate and follow-up: Create a meeting routine to delegate relationship cultivation activities among your Board of Directors and other stakeholders (yes, the Executive Director is not the only one responsible for relationship cultivation), discuss the status, and determine the next steps.
Have pre-written materials ready to go when building relationships via email: Create a short email template to send as an introduction and a one-page pre-written document highlighting some quick points regarding your organization. This email is not the opportunity to attach ten pdfs of all your latest and greatest, but a brief highlight of what you want the potential funder to know about your organization. Know the potential funder may forward this email to others.
Don't be afraid to pick up the phone: Many funders are still open to having telephone conversations. Some of the best engagements happen over the telephone.
I offer this insight with a grain of salt. Some funders are either getting away from this notion of cultivating a relationship before applying, some don't have the capacity to have many one-on-one interactions with potential grantees, and for some funders, like in the world of federal grants, relationship building is not as typical. However, for funders who are open to some relationship cultivation, these tips have worked well for many of our clients at Think and Ink Grants.
The end of the year is a great time to plan and strategize for next year. If you are currently in the middle of designing or redesigning your programs, sign up for our newsletter at www.thinkandinkgrants.com. You can download your complimentary
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Shavonn Richardson, MBA, GPC is Founder and CEO of Think and Ink Grant Consulting™. She is a grant professional, an active speaker, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Grant Professionals Association.
Shavonn earned a BBA from Howard University and an MBA from Emory University. She earned the GPC (Grant Professional Certified) credential from the Grant Professionals Certification Institute in 2020.