Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Building Meaningful Relationships with Funders

Relationships are the building blocks that lay a strong foundation of any development plan. Funders have specific initiatives to be met and nonprofit organizations are guided by mission based programs.

Understanding the importance of creating a "mutually-beneficial" relationship is key. What can you give? What can you receive? Relationships take time to develop, so where do you start? First and foremost, know your product. Be able to clearly and concisely communicate the mission of your organization, the programs and services delivered, outcomes realized by constituencies, organizational accomplishments and challenges your organization faces moving forward. Ideally, your talking points are aligned with other staff and/or volunteers who are representing you to funders.

As you strategically manage funder relationships, it is critical to take the time to know who you are talking with. What are the priorities of the funder you are building a relationship with? How can your project benefit the funder in fulfilling their mission? Where is the nexus of a mutually beneficial relationship? Being able to research and give thought to these questions prior to communicating with a funder will give you the right framework for a compelling conversation and set the stage for a positive relationship moving forward.

This week in Mancos, Colorado, 350 people will convene for Rural Philanthro­py Days (RPD) to do just that, build positive relationships. RPD is the state's premiere opportunity for public agencies and nonprofit organizations to learn about the financial resources avail­able to them in their own state. Colorado grant­makers will have an opportunity to learn more about the unique needs of rural areas beyond the Front Range. Each RPD event generates millions of dol­lars in new grant support for local nonprofit organizations serving their communities.

Other opportunities exist for you to either begin developing new relationships with funders or to cultivate ongoing, long-term relationships. I invite you to join the Colorado Association of Funders, the Colorado Nonprofit Association and the Community Resource Center for the first annual C(3) Forum on July 21st at the University of Denver. This event has been coordinated by the three agencies to provide opportunities for Front Range nonprofit organizations to build relationships with local funders. Whether you are new to the sector or a long-term champion of your mission, this is an opportunity not to miss. Attendance is limited and nonprofits are limited to two people per agency. I look forward to seeing you there.

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