In the previous post I talked about how developing relationships with the right persons can dramatically boost your fund raising success. In this post I provide an overview of some of the more complex strategies you can use to build strategic relationships with key funding decision makers.
Her are some of the more involved strategies you can utilize to engage prospective donors. These strategies absolutely require the involvement of board members, trustees, personnel, volunteers, friends, and even friends of friends.
- Step one: Identify a list of potential donors, including individuals and foundations. As in the previous five-step process, be sure that your list strategically targets only those with funding and giving priorities that are closely aligned with your organization’s mission or work in the community. Separate individual donors from foundations and corporations. Due to the level of footwork involved in the following steps, developing a short, tightly-focused list of prospects is essential. You do not want to waste anyone’s time chasing after empty leads. Wasting the time of those who are willing to assist and support you in your fundraising efforts is detrimental to success and ruins relationships.
- Step two: For any foundation or corporate giving prospects, look up the list of their board members, program directors and trustees. With foundations, this information is readily available online through sources such as www.guidestar.org or the Foundation Center (www.foundationcenter.org). Many foundations and corporations also post this information on their websites. You may have to dig a little but with some effort, you can find these names.
- Step three: Now create a matrix that lists your findings. Categorize this information by individual, foundation, corporation, etc. Pass this matrix around to everyone who is affiliated with your organization and might possibly have some sort of connection to any of the individuals on the list. In looking at the very brief sample below, you can see how quickly the list can grow—particularly if you are targeting foundations, which might have 12 or more trustees or board members each. A sample matrix is below.
|Category||Name||Affiliation||Comments||Action steps||Outcome and follow-up|
|Marsha Q. Adams||Former Director of XYX Corporation||Attends most of the large charity events||Fred B. to approach at upcoming Red Ball|
|Foundation-EFG Foundation||John A. Public
|Foundation Director||Involved in Science Museum||Thomas J has met twice, will approach at private party|
|Alice P. Public||John’s wife, foundation trustee||Involved in Orchid Museum||Lisa R knows a friend of hers, will ask for a recommendation|
|Marlin X. Finance||Trustee||None|
|Foundation RRR Foundation||Milton Dollars||Director||Lives in New York City||Lori M knows personally, will write note|
|Name 3||Trustee||Involved in coalition against domestic violence||Will T knows his neighbor. Will approach and ask for recommendation|
|Name 4||Program officer||Unknown||No connection (yet)|
The goal of this exercise is to identify relationships that you were unaware of before you started the process. Once you have identified any relationships, you then ask the person who knows or has a connection to the prospect to either in person or with a brief note ask if they would be willing to look at a proposal from your organization.
This has been an extraordinarily successful approach for me and the organizations with which I have worked over the years. In one case I knew that a local politician shared an interest with the Director of a large national foundation. I asked the politician to write the following note:
“Dear XXX. It was great seeing you at the recent Bath and Tennis Club event. Always enjoy speaking with you. I know that you are very interested in children’s programming. I had a conversation with the Director of RRR, which has some very innovative arts-based programming targeting at-risk, inner-city youth. They have been very successful. You might want to take a closer look at the work they do.”
One week later I received a phone call from the Foundation Director’s Assistant, asking us to submit a funding request for $140,000, which we were awarded several months later.
This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of every strategy you can employ to build relationships with prospective donors this does provide an overview of techniques that I have used successfully in the past. In any case, cultivating relationships with donors is a process, not an event so be prepared and be patient.