Stewarding Foundations That Give to Nonprofits

Donor Retention Project ImageThe Donor Retention Project – Week 11:
Stewarding Foundations

In week 11 of The Donor Retention Project, Pamela Grow discusses stewarding foundations that give to nonprofits. While this may seem like a strange concept, foundations are just people giving money in a different way.

Statistics show that foundation giving has increased in recent years. Not necessarily because foundations are giving more money but because individuals are using family foundations or donor-advised funds as an alternate means of giving. As David A. Mersky has been known to say, “foundations are the same individuals giving from their left pocket instead of their right.”

And foundations, as well as individuals, can, and should, be stewarded – both before and after the gift.

Since The Donor Retention Project focuses on retention – let’s consider what happens after you apply to a foundation for a grant.

Scenario 1 – You don’t get the grant
(I hesitate to begin with the negative response but I think people need more improvement in this area.)

Pamela suggests you send a thank you note. Yes, a thank you note after you were declined. They have taken the time and effort to consider you and deserve your appreciation. Then, consider how easy it is to send off a note and what a memorable and impressive impact it will make on the foundation.   Next, call and ask three questions – none of which is, “Why didn’t I get the grant?” Instead inquire:

  1. Could we have done something differently in our proposal?
  2. May we resubmit the proposal for the next funding cycle?
  3. Do you know of any other foundations that might be interested in our proposal?

Scenario 2 – You get the grant
Steward the relationship:

  • Send what is expected of you when it is expected.
  • Repurpose your donor newsletter and publicity articles to create foundation updates throughout the year.
  • Send thank you notes. The type depends upon your relationship. Do not send expensive gifts that serve as proof to the foundation you are not using their money wisely.
  • Treat them like the partner they are – with respect and consistent information.

The path to foundation success is similar to that of individual donors – slow and steady with large amounts of communication and feedback. But unlike donors, they may never set foot in your building or receive direct benefits from your work—other than the psychic reward of supporting important, valuable work that enhances their community. It may be harder to show your gratitude and steward a foundation that gives to nonprofits but it is no less important to be accountable and appreciative.

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Read the rest of my series on 90 Days to Larger Gifts and Lifetime Donors by clicking here