Monday, April 11, 2011

Whether or Not to Publicly Acknowledge A Grant Donor, How To, and When To

When a nonprofit receives a grant, it is a moment to enjoy, but we all know the work doesn't end there.  Part of the work remaining to be done is keeping the relationship up with that grant donor.  The goal is not just to get another grant from them.  Maintaining and striving for strong relationships with donors (any donor and all donors): retains a nonprofit's past and current donors; it fosters an inclusion where the donor is not just sent a form thank you letter but rather enjoys the benefits (too) of the nonprofit's achievements in the community that the donor helped the organization to achieve; and it raises the community's perception of the nonprofit because they have a personal sense of how the organization treats them and while, too, providing an avenue for that donor to ask questions (i.e. "...I see in the donation thank you letter that I received that the nonprofit is currently providing (some service) to (some population) because of (some situation).  I want to know more about this effort because I want to help...").  The donor then consistently receives information about the organization (i.e. perhaps through a regularly disseminated newsletter), its mission, and its current work and goals, and it encourages that donor to become more active with the nonprofit (perhaps volunteering or perhaps just sharing with a friend or co-worker, "...I donated to that nonprofit because they do good work...").

So it goes, then, being that relationships are two-way streets, a nonprofit organization should proactively develop an affirmative policy that states how the organization publicizes supporting grant donors and grants that it receives.

Grants are not just an opportunity for an organization to fund its current goals.  Grants also indicate to other grant donors still weighing whether or not to give to a specific nonprofit that others in the community deem the organization (and its work) worthy of a grant (and that can and does sometimes encourage other grant donors (who've also been applied to, at that time) to also decide they will give a grant, too.  A nonprofit's proactive affirmative policy on publicizing grants it receives might be: 'At the time our organization receives a grant (from any grant donor) we will immediately contact our direct contact at the grant donor's office if it is not noted in the grant donor's grant giving guidelines, ask them whether we can: notify other potential donors (who were also applied to) about the grant being received; include them in our quarterly donor list on our newsletter and website; include them as a donor on the brochure, web page, marketing materials, and press releases explaining the program or service that they funded; and in conversations the nonprofit's leaders have with others in the community, may they mention our having received the grant when they network or do any public-facing work on behalf of the organization?  We will always honor the donor's preference on this matter.' 

When it is O.K. with all parties involved it is a smart fundraising and marketing move for the nonprofit to publicize that the organization received the grant because it empowers the nonprofit when the community sees that others in the community support that nonprofit's work, it empowers the organization when the community comes to understand what other organizations (which grant donors) support that nonprofit, and it empowers the agency when the community comes to know what programs and services the nonprofit provides that others in the community decided to support.

Notifying other potential donors (who were also applied to) about the grant being received - Of all of the suggested public relations methods listed, here, this one is far and away the most important because potentially it may immediately raise more funds.  If a grant donor is comfortable with it (and this is not uncommon for recipient nonprofits to do - so most grant donors are usually O.K. with doing so), notify all of the other potential grant (and other types of major donors) that have been solicited for the same project or service that the grant is going to fund that your organization received a grant from whichever donor gave it.

Thank you letter - A thank you letter under the executive director and board's signature should immediately follow receipt of a grant.  What comes into question is whether the organization is using a donor database to manage the donations it receives, its relationship with its donors, issuing its thank you letters, and disseminating its newsletters.  If a nonprofit uses a donor database, be certain to either turn off issuing a newsletter to a grant donor who is entered (or already in) the database because they do not need a quarterly newsletter from your organization.  Imagine it.  They are literally in the business of donating grants to nonprofits.  If every organization that received a grant sent them a newsletter (even with the best intentions) regularly, that grant donor's office would never get to their actual mail.  Their post box would be clogged.  Unless a grant donor requests it - do not send them regular solicitations or fundraising requests (other than the aptly timed and pre-researched grant proposal).

Donor list - Many nonprofit organizations include a list of its most recent donors perhaps in its annual report, website, regular newsletters, and in other publicly disseminated modes.  If a grant donor does not want to be acknowledged as a donor, publicly, or if the grant donor only wishes to be acknowledged as "anonymous" or "an anonymous donor" honor their wish and only refer to them in this way, publicly.  Honor the donor's request.

The program or service's brochure, web page, marketing materials, press releases, etc. - Many programs managers like to include the names of major donors to their projects, like grant donors, because it informs the beneficiaries and other supporters of that project who in the community is enabling the project to occur.  For instance, a pharmaceutical company may sponsor a cancer support group and the participants may appreciate knowing that the pharmaceutical company that is manufacturing the medicine they are taking is also supporting their personal welfare, too.

In conversations the nonprofit's leaders have with others in the community, as they network or do any public-facing work on behalf of the organization - as nonprofit leaders discuss the nonprofits that they work for with others in the community, in short but clear form, they should be sharing what the organization's current work and goals are and its most recent achievements including having just received a grant.  Most grant donors expect a recipient nonprofit's leadership will share with others this achievement, but if for instance a grant donor's requested that it only be referred to as an anonymous donor, then it is imperative that the fundraising office notify all of the organization's volunteers, staff, and consultants privy to the grant being received and who donated it, that the grant donor is to only be referred to as such. 

Asking a donor (any kind of donor who gives to your organization) whether they are O.K. (or not) being publicly thanked or acknowledged for their contribution and then following through with their preference both enables that donor (strengthening the relationship that the organization has with that donor) and also acknowledges that donor's right to say what their preference is.  Asking them what they want honors the relationship, and demonstrates that a relationship (and level of professionalism) is in place that they can come to expect from your organization.  This can engender a long-lasting relationship that provides those who need in your community with more and better services and products while enabling your organization to achieve new goals by virtue of the support your organization receives from its community.

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