6 ways philanthropists can engage in relationship-based fundraising

Relationship-based fundraising: A guest blog from Jasmine Awad, I.G. Advisors

The uncertainty brought by this year’s events has irreversibly transformed the non-profit world, making the need for strong and lasting relationships between non-profits and donors even more obvious. To support the sector during these challenging times, philanthropy and fundraising advisory firm, I.G. Advisors, partnered with the Ford Foundation to create the Field Guide to Relationship-Based Fundraising. It is a free and accessible fundraising toolkit designed to help non-profits build strong relationships with their donors.

While the purpose of the field guide is to support fundraisers, it also offers valuable insights into how philanthropists can better show up for their grantees. Below are our 5 key takeaways:

Read the full field guide

 

1. Give unrestricted and multi-year funding

Giving unrestricted, multi-year funding demonstrates your trust in your grantees, and the impact of these gifts is undeniable. Unrestricted funding enables grantees to direct resources to the areas of most need, and respond to changing environments faster and more efficiently. Multi-year grants enable non-profits to plan their future growth with more confidence, and to focus more strategic resources on impact delivery (rather than annual fundraising campaigns that start from zero).

 

2. Create space for 360 feedback

Most fundraisers don’t feel comfortable asking donors for feedback, as they worry about ‘trespassing’ boundaries. However, your opinion can be invaluable when it comes to strengthening their work. You should always let your grantees know if they can come to you for advice – whether it is to evaluate the strength of their mission and activities, or simply share constructive feedback on their communications. Remember to also invite feedback on your role as a donor and actively explore how your philanthropy can better support and champion what they do.

 

3. Share your skills

More often than not, fundraisers miss out on the opportunity to leverage the skills of their donors to grow their organisation. If you have the time, a simple action like sharing your CV, or having an informal chat with a grantee to talk about your expertise can help remove this barrier and allow for new partnership opportunities.

 

4. Open your network

Non-profits want (and need) to be part of networks to build stronger communities and unlock more funding opportunities. Connecting with peer organisations to share learnings and skills, and building a strong group of advocates and donors to secure financial support are two key aspects of their work. There are many ways you can help on this front, for example by regularly attending their events and inviting your contacts to join you. Or if you are comfortable, you can also make introductions to other relevant organisations and new potential donors in your network.

 

5. Manage expectations around your commitment 

When it comes to philanthropy, it can be difficult to predict how you’ll want to spend your resources in the future – even more so during times like this. Naturally, that makes a fundraiser’s job difficult, too. As much as you feel comfortable, we strongly recommend being transparent with your grantees about this and managing their expectations around what a future commitment might look like (e.g. “I’m going to give £50k this year, but can’t guarantee that for next year, so please don’t plan on this until we have another conversation.”). This kind of transparency allows fundraisers to prepare for a smooth transition when they no longer have your support.

 

6. Invest in capacity building

No organisation should rely on a single donor for fundraising success. If you want to help non-profits build a healthy and diverse portfolio of other funders, you can invest in their capacity by:

  • Providing additional financial resources to expand their fundraising teams.
  • Hiring a fundraising consultant to develop a bespoke fundraising strategy.
  • Sharing useful resources like I.G.’s Field Guide to Relationship-Based Fundraising, our free toolkit with activities, case studies, and best practice templates to help fundraisers develop relationships with high-value audiences.

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At I.G., we work closely with both small and large non-profits, and are very familiar with the sector’s needs and challenges. If you want to learn more about what fundraisers want, you can read this article, or listen to this episode of our very own podcast, What Donors Want, entirely dedicated to What Grantees Want. Please reach out to us if you ever want to explore your philanthropic strategy.