Do You Say 'Thank You' When You Don't Get the Grant?
I was surprised recently to read a question from a novice nonprofit fundraiser who stated that she was taught to not write thank-you letters for grant awards.
Before I fell into fundraising, I spent nearly seven years working for a regional grantmaking foundation. When I first stepped on board, the foundation had only recently transitioned from a casual, privately run organization—consisting of the founder and his wife sending out checks to their beloved charities—to a fully-fledged, organized grantmaking entity engaged in bestowing money to qualified nonprofits.
Naturally, there were some growing pains during those early years. But through trial and error, we figured out what worked and what didn’t, gradually learning how to navigate the ins and outs of the grantmaking process. It was a good time to be on board. I’ll never forget the delighted surprise of applying organizations who received more than they had requested in their grant proposals, thanks to the luck of good timing. You see, their requests had come in near the close of our fiscal year, and we had discovered that we had not expended the 5 percent requirement. Private foundations are required by law to distribute an amount each year based on 5 percent of the average value of their net assets.
I started out as a fly on the wall before moving on to the inside. I participated in the hours of research, discussion and tweaking that went into establishing initiatives, program areas and grant application guidelines.
But most of all, I witnessed how seriously everyone in the foundation took their responsibilities—to the founder’s mission and to the community—and the care that went into reviewing grant proposals.
Giving is a joyful experience, and we received many expressions of gratitude. But, unsurprisingly, it was rare that an organization actually took the time to thank a foundation for its review when it declined a proposal.
So rare, in fact, that I distinctly recall the very first time that I saw it happen. The vice president of programming received the thank-you letter. She was touched, and she shared it with the rest of the staff before filing the note with the applicant’s proposal. When the organization reapplied the following year, they were fully funded, to no surprise.
You see, time matters, especially today. Time is precious. So why would you not give thanks to a foundation that took the time necessary to peruse your proposal and directly communicate with you afterward? Why would you not take the opportunity to create a connection, when connections serve as building blocks for so many amazing things?
Listen, establishing a solid base of foundation support for your organization will take some time, because it’s so very worthwhile. Many of the books and courses talk about how to pen the perfect grant proposal, but in reality, grants, like individual giving, are a relationship-building process dependent on interactions rooted in gratitude. By neglecting to show appreciation for the review process, for the time spent, even when you didn’t receive the grant you’d hoped for, you’re missing out on so much more than the grant alone.
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.