Fundraising Secrets (Webinar): How to Establish a Relationship with Your Local Funders

The Key to Successful Fundraising? Successful Relationship-Building

Here at Schoolrunner, we provide you with the data you need as you’re building positive relationships with grant-makers. Positive relationships, though, also take time, commitment, and an effort to show that you care about their work. We discussed this topic in our latest Fundraising Secrets webinar, which you can view above, and you can review our three quick tips on relationship-building below.

Step 1: Research the funder to learn more about their work, staff, and priorities.

Explore tools like Guidestar and GetEdFunding to access a basic overview of organizations’ grantmaking activities. And if you’re seeking a more in-depth summary of their mission, staff expertise, or past grantees, make sure to explore their website or annual report. By understanding the funder’s giving priorities, future goals, and level of investment, you’re more likely to earn the trust of prospective funders.

Show the funder that you care about their work and are not just reaching out to win a grant. Instead, begin to develop a partnership that will help you accomplish both your goals.

Step 2: Prepare for a conversation that is more than just about money.

Rather than probe for tips on how to win the grant, demonstrate your interest in the funder’s work. Tailor your initial “pitch” to the organization’s goals and interests, highlighting why you are eager to connect with the funder and how your work aligns. Outline your theory of change and ask for advice on how to accelerate progress toward shared, long-term goals.

The conversation can then evolve from an introduction to an opportunity for collaboration. Funder meetings like these fulfill a critical goal: making the case for your school and underscoring your credibility, which will help lead to an investment in your work.

Step 3: Use various channels to connect with funders.

To create these conversations, explore your networks to see if anyone has direct contact with a staff or board member—and ensure that person has the information they need to make the connection. When a funder says they don’t accept unsolicited inquiries, this mutual contact can reach out to describe your work, highlight shared goals, and outline an interest in collaboration.

Cold outreach over email or phone can be just as effective—either to program officers or even the front desk. It may take more than one inquiry but wait a week and follow up. And when possible, capitalize on opportunities to introduce yourself to prospective funders at issue or interest-specific events in your community.

You’re taking steps towards building a pipeline of long-lasting relationships with funders—and long-lasting grant opportunities.

For more on this topic, and to hear insights from fellow members of the education community, check out the recording from our latest Fundraising Secrets Webinar.


Lee D.

School Partnerships and Operations Manager

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