Building Authentic Grantmaker Relationships

Grantmaker Relationships

This is a post by Diane H. Leonard, GPC

Grantmaker relationships are a critical element of a successful grant seeking strategy, but you may be wondering how you can best build on those relationships once you get your first grant from a funder? How can you authentically build long-term funding relationships and partnerships?

It boils down to the key question: “How can you express next-level gratitude for your grantmakers of all sizes and types (in a way that aligns with your own capacity and other grant-related responsibilities)?”

Here are four ways that you can engage in more authentic grantmaker relationships as a way to express next-level gratitude:

1. Ask About and Respect Their Preferences

Each grantmaker has their own capacity and preferences as it relates to communication with grantees both pre-award and post-award. Don’t be shy about asking a grantmaker that has made an award to your organization about how they prefer to communicate. For example:

  • Do they like to receive phone calls with updates?
  • Do they prefer an email with attachments so they can forward them on to their colleagues and board members?
  • Are they allowed to come to special events for grantees as your guest, or do they need to pay for their own ticket if the participate?


They will appreciate receiving communication throughout the grant award period in their preferred style, and you will appreciate having the clear framework to work within as you build a stronger relationship with the grantmaker.

2. Share Updates

You shouldn’t wait for a required grant report in order to share a significant update (positive or negative!) with your grantmaker. Waiting to share a significant update for a report is quite frankly, too late.

If you have already asked about your grantmaker’s communication preferences when the award was made, you can follow that preference with sharing updates during the grant award period outside of any formal reporting requirements.

What sort of things should you share?

  • You can share a great client success story.
  • You can share outcome measurements that are far exceeding your expectations and the factors around this success.
  • You can (and really need to!) also share if something isn’t going quite as planned and may mean that you need to modify your expected outcomes, or extend the time that the grant is implemented over.
  • And if your updates involve spending any of the money in a different way than you proposed and they approved, it is your fiduciary responsibility to talk with the grantmaker before making those changes.

3. Promote Their Work and Your Partnership

Yes, you should be promoting and thanking your grantmaker publicly for the project/program/campaign that they have supported for your organization. You should thank the grantmakers for their award. You should reshare their content that is applicable to your organization on your organization’s social media platforms. You should acknowledge their funding made the project/program possible in your organization’s newsletter and on program materials (whether digital or hard copy).

You should also be thinking about your grantmaker as a funding partner. How can you help promote your partner within your network and to your stakeholders?

Your grantmaker agreed to make a grant to your organization as they believe your project/program/campaign is aligned with *their* mission/goals. So it stands to reason that there is information about their work, beyond the specifics of funding your organization, that could be of interest to your stakeholders. Those stakeholders can be board members, fellow staff, social media followers, etc.

Do you want to learn more and see tactical examples of how to build these authentic relationships and express next-level gratitude for your grantmakers?

Join us for CharityHowTo’s upcoming webinar training, Grantmaker Relationships: How to Express Next-Level Gratitude by registering here!

Topics: grants, grantmaker, grantmaker relationships