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Building Relationships That Attract New Funders

  • Posted on Aug 30, 2016
5 December 2015

Give-Back“A true friend supports you because they want to see you succeed.”-Ms. Moem.  Thriving nonprofits and even small businesses recognize that their most faithful supporters and donors are the “friends” of their organization, who support their mission.  Certainly, you have heard many times that business success depends on, location, location, location.  Well for nonprofits much of your success depends on, relationships, relationships, relationships.  Getting funding to launch or grow your nonprofit requires deliberate relationship building that is in line with your funding goals.  In the competitive charitable giving environment that we face today, getting or increasing funding has become more challenging.  According to The Sandford Social Innovation Review, since 1970, 200,000 nonprofits have opened, yet only 144 of them have reached $50 million in annual revenue.  That’s less than one percent!  Much of your funding success will be on the strength of the relationships you build. This blog post will give you a few tips on how to leverage relationships that lead to new funding for your nonprofit organization.


  1. Treat Individual Donors Like Liquid Gold

Individual donors are one of the most lucrative and constant sources of funding resources to your agency.  These are the people who already connect to your mission and know about the good work you do.   Therefore, you must treat these relationships like liquid gold.  Build these relationships showing them appreciation through personalized, handwritten thank you notes, special invitations to ticketed events, unique gifts and public mentions.  Grow your individual donor base by researching what motivates them to give and their giving patterns.  Learning about their lifestyles and relative demographics helps with crafting the appropriate communication message to show them you value what they care about.  This will also increase the chances of Gold chunksreceiving their continued support.  As you cultivate these relationships, consider hosting special, exclusive events just for your individual donors, or recognize them at your annual events.  Neglecting to say thank you to your donors and only communicating with them when you are asking them for a donation is a certain way to lose their support.  Always keep the communication consistent, yet not overbearing by sending quarterly notes, emails and updates.  A best practice is to keep active communication with donors by using a customer relationship management system (CRM).   There are many available, but a few top rated, inexpensive software providers are: Memberplanet,  Neon, Litmos and Vinigo.  These are all great sources to track giving and donor information.

  1. Know the MVPs (most valuable players) in Your Industry

There is truth in the statement, it’s not what you know, but who you know.  Relationships are about, trust, familiarity and likeability.  Funders are no different, so get to know the leaders in your mission-focus area through common connections.  Find out who they are and who they know and get as close to them as you possibly can.  Meaning, attend functions that they speak at, know who they support and what their positions are on certain hot topics issues in your industry.  Look for ways to connect with them, like during panel discussions.  Identifying yourself at an event they are presenting at with an open question during their presentation.  Get a seat at their fundraising event table, become an event sponsor, be active on their social media sites, email them a relevant article.  Try organizing a project collaboration, joining their golf club or becoming a member at their gym.   Regardless of your time constraints or budget, there are hundreds of ways to get in front of your key leaders in order to get on their radar so that when you ask for funding, they are familiar with your mission and how it impacts what they care about. 

  1. Build Your Community Relationships

brown lady shaking hands and smilingIs your nonprofit surrounded by big-box retailers or local small and mid-sized businesses?   DDBS serves many agencies which are located in the heart of busy communities. Yet, we have found few of our clients who report that they have strong relationships with the businesses right in their own backyard.  Don’t overlook these potential giving opportunities, Target is in nearly every neighborhood and Walmart, Home Depot and Lowes are just around the corner.  There is no excuse not to build local relationships that could reap rewards at the national giving level.   Just about every major retailer has a community foundation, as well as local level donor authority and is willing to give to organizations who take the time to ask.  To begin connecting with potential corporate and business donors, invite the community relations director, regional and local directors to your events.  Avoid contacting them just to ask them to give and try a more relational approach.  Set up a meeting with their leaders just to find out what they are doing in your community, without asking them for anything.  This meeting will help you learn how you can support or collaborate with what they are doing with hopes of getting their support for your cause later on.  Stay connected by getting on their mailing list and sending them periodic updates on your community success.

  1. Be Your Brother’s Keeper

Funders have become shrewder in their giving, so, it is imperative that your organization collaborate with other nonprofits in your community.  Funders want to know that if they give to you the funds, it will be used to make the largest impact on what is important to them.  Funders recognize that there is strength in numbers and they want to know that you are working with 3d Community puzzleagencies in your community to solve the problem collectively, rather than working on an island.  DDBS recently helped one of our clients create a formal partnership which allowed the partnering agency to receive $30,000 toward its operations to serve the two agencies common population.  The beauty of this agreement is the partnering agency did not have to lift a finger to write the funding proposal, all they had to do is sign the agreement and write a recommendation letter. 

Building the right relationships is easier when you have a strategy, so use these tips to enhance or start new professional and corporate relationships so you can increase and diversify your funds. 

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