The Importance of Building Relationships with Funders

A nonprofit organization is like any other business in that it must stay financially afloat to succeed and prosper. Nonprofit organizations are often advised to diversify their funding and make sure that it is coming from a myriad of sources like membership fees, the sale of goods and services, and donations. More often than not, however, the majority of a nonprofit’s funding is coming from donations and grants. This is why building good relationships with funders is of paramount importance as a nonprofit organization. Without the financial support of generous donors and grant makers, nonprofits would not be able to run or successfully sustain themselves.

Funders can come in several forms such as:

  • Individual donors
  • Corporate sponsorships
  • Grants

You might be asking yourself, “How can I build strong relationships with donors or attract new ones?”

This is a question we recommend asking yourself on a recurring basis so that you continue to be mindful of your current donor relationships and those you hope to build in the future. 

The following are a few ways that you can build successful relationships with existing and potential funders.

  • Recruit the right people ― Whether it’s who you hire as your program manager or who you elect to be on your board of directors, recruiting the right people will be instrumental to your fundraising efforts. A program manager, for instance, will have a primary job of searching for grant opportunities and writing proposals. You’ll want someone who is experienced and dedicated to your cause. Board members will be partially responsible for soliciting donations and you want to be sure you’re putting together a board that is passionate and persistent. 
  • Regularly communicate your mission ― Your board of directors should always be in tune with your organization’s mission and what needs to be done to fulfill it. Since board members are responsible for seeking out financial opportunities, they will need to be well versed in communicating your mission to potential donors. Additionally, make sure that you are reiterating your mission to current and future donors through marketing efforts, social media, word of mouth, and more. When the community knows who you are and what you’re all about, they will know if they are the right financial fit for your organization.
  • Rely on your network ― Your board of directors, volunteers and employees, and other stakeholders are directly connected to the community. All of these relationships create dozens of tethers to people you can potentially network with when it comes to soliciting grant opportunities and donations. Don’t be afraid to ask your network if they have anyone in mind that you can reach out to ― your network is one of your biggest assets.
  • Make donors feel special ― Gratitude and recognition of donors is a small way to make a big impact when it comes to retention and relationship building. Doing things like sending thank you cards, putting their names or company logos on sponsored event programming, sending small gifts during the holiday season, or hosting exclusive events for donors are ways to make donors feel special. When donors feel special and thanked, they are more likely to continue honoring their investment in your organization.
  • Keep funders up to date ― Press releases, quarterly reports, and newsletters are a great way to keep your funders and potential donors informed about how your organization is doing both logistically and financially. Donors want to know where their money is going and how it is being used and transparency is the foundation of a long lasting partnership.
  • Ask for advice ― Whether you are struggling with what grants to apply for or who to reach out to for donorship, don’t be afraid to ask your network for advice. Grant making organizations, consulting firms, and your board and colleagues have years of experience in the nonprofit sector and are eager to lend their help. When it comes to nonprofit funding, two (or several) heads are better than one.

Remember, ample funding is key to the success of your nonprofit. Building relationships with funders will enable you to elevate your organization’s mission and strengthen your community, all while staying financially strong.

For more information about our services or for how we can help your nonprofit with the funding and/or grants process, reach out to us at

Published by The Empowerment Center LLC

We are a business empowerment consulting firm located in Cleveland, Ohio. We provide economic empowerment services to nonprofit and public sector businesses to include grant writing, development and consulting.

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