Thanks, and Stay in Touch
By Tom Linfield - Madison Community Foundation
One of the nicest grantee thank-you’s received by the Madison Community Foundation was an envelope full of hand-drawn, hand-written letters from a group of middle school kids in a tutoring program we’d funded. They were colorful, delightful, and completely genuine.
This kind of gesture is a rarity, however, and it often feels that applicants spend a lot of time talking to us before they get a grant award, and then very little afterward. The award is really the beginning of the relationship, and certainly the first step towards the impact that both foundation and non-profit awardee are hoping for. This post-award silence may be because there are specific guidelines on how to apply for funding, but more of an unwritten code on how to involve the funder thereafter. Here are a few ideas to help build the relationship:
Always thank your funder
Fewer than a third of Madison Community Foundation grant recipients send an actual letter of thanks. These letters are a chance to share your excitement and talk about your next steps. They are often shared with staff and board members (many of whom are also generous funders).
Invite funders to project events
Celebrating your award internally? From informal celebrations to site visits, to ribbon cuttings, to board meetings, think of inviting foundation staff. We can’t always make it but it’s nice to be invited to the party. (Avoid the last minute “can you make it tonight?” email.) Some of our best site visits have involved hearing directly from individuals served by the grant projects.
Share good news (and bad)
Did something wonderful happen? Share it with the foundation. A short email with good news and an update is quick, easy, and helps ensure that the foundation is aware of your progress. Did something terrible happen? Schedule a call or meeting and share the news. Far better than we hear it from you than from a third party. We understand that there are stumbling blocks in every project, and honesty trumps everything.
So, what did we do with all those wonderful letters from the kids? We shared them with staff and then mailed each of them out to a different donor that we work with, expanding the circle of happiness, thanks, and impact.