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Cultivate Your Way to Winning More Grants

“So you fill out forms and send in letters. That's what grant writers do, right?” Stop me if you've heard this one before… No, don't stop me, because we've ALL heard it before. 

“So you fill out forms and send in letters. That's what grant writers do, right?” Stop me if you've heard this one before… No, don't stop me, because we've ALL heard it before. One of the biggest misconceptions by “civilians” outside the grants profession is that all we do is count some characters, type in a few stats and press send. Then the award letters arrive into our inboxes. If it were really that easy, than then everyone would be doing it. Cubicles across the country would be running over with business-casual-clad employees and consultants all typing madly.  Bad hair days would no longer matter.
As promising and carefree as that scenario may seem, it's missing a critical element to success: people. Foundations and government agencies don't award grants. Program officers, trustees, and review committee members read and discuss the applications, make recommendations and ultimately decide who wins the funding. Writing a concise, compelling narrative and creating a sound budget remain essential skills for grant professionals, but building meaningful working partnerships with current and future funders is equally vital.
“Cultivating” in the grants profession is simply building and maintaining professional communication with people who make or facilitate funding decisions. In today's competitive grant environment, meeting deadlines with sound proposals is not enough. There are ways to engage in respectful and effective communication with funders that could help ensure future grants for the communities you serve.
Here are a few tips on cultivating funders through different styles of communication beyond the standard proposal and report deadlines:
  1. Invite your current grant makers (public, foundation and corporate representatives) to speak as panelists in your GPA chapter meeting or regional conference.
  1. Send handwritten notes of thanks to your grant-making contact from those served by the grant award. (Paw prints, leaf prints or other creative marks also work if the grant in question serves non-humans J)
  1. If space permits, offer your facilities as meeting space for the donor organization, or host a forum including the funders covering the emerging trends in your field.
  1. Feature the funder in social media posts highlighting program achievements and make sure to tag the donor agency.
  1. Network with other grant professionals at your GPA Chapter meeting for tips on how to best communicate with foundation officers and board members.  Remember, if you've met one program officer, you've met one program officer.
For more tips and real life examples on building and maintaining working relationships with donors outside of the grant cycle, check out Chapter 8 of “Prepare for the GPC Exam.”  One of the eight competencies covered in the GPC (Grant Professional Certification) Exam is “knowledge of methods and strategies that cultivate and maintain relationships between fund-seeking and recipient organizations and funders.”
And remember: proceeds of the sale of “Prepare for the GPC Exam” help provide GPC Exam Scholarships through the Grant Professionals Foundation. Visit Charity Channel Press to purchase the book: Use coupon code gpc-prep-gpf to receive a 20% DISCOUNT (Full disclosure: I'm not just a co-author, I'm the Board Chair of the Grant Professionals Foundation.)
Know a fantastic grant professional? A champion of cultivation? Show them some love by making a gift in their honor to the Grant Professionals Foundation during International Grant Professionals Week.


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