By: Lindsey Greenberg, Gateway Center for Giving
Not much time is spent talking about how nonprofits and foundations can more effectively communicate with one another. The topic of today’s Meet the Donor session at Boeing covered just that. Our three panelists- Jim Bafaro (Boeing), Melinda McAliney (Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis), and Amy Rome (The Rome Group)- shared communications best practices from their funding and consulting experiences and offered examples of how relationships based on strong communication with a grantee can transition into a collaborative relationship.
Jim Bafaro was very clear with the group in noting that the “three keys to cracking the code” when looking to getting project funding from Boeing are: collaboration, innovation, and out of the box ideas. He offered a number of examples of how Boeing has played a central role is moving many collaborative projects forward in the region.
When asked how to get the attention of funders, Melinda McAliney stressed that nonprofits should “just call”. She acknowledged that all funders are different and each like to be communicated with in diverse ways but when it comes to working with the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis nonprofits should first explore the Lutheran Foundation’s website in depth, ensure that there is a mission and vision fit, and then get to know the staff at the Foundation. When she talks about getting to know the foundation she means more than just calling the week the grant application is due.
Forming a relationship with a foundation takes time and effort but as Amy Rome stressed the better the foundation can “tell your story” the more fruitful the relationship between the nonprofit and funder will be. Funders have the potential to be delivery agents of a nonprofits key messages but it is up to the nonprofit to ensure that the funder is well versed in your mission, key messages, and programs.
Here are some resources for nonprofits and grantmakers about how to become more effective communicators with one another and how to turn communication into collaboration:
- Grantees Report Back: Helpful Reporting and Evaluation Processes- January 2011
Created by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, this report looks at grantee views of reporting and evaluation and offers advice to grantmakers and nonprofits for enhancing funder-grantee relationships.
- Improving Communication Between Foundation Staff and Grantee- August 2010
Report commissioned by the California Healthcare Foundation to better analyze the results of their Grantee Perception Report and to assess grantee communications practices.
- Working with Grantees: The Key to Success and Five Program Officers Who Exemplify Them- 2010
Report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy that explores the importance of foundation-grantee relationships that takes a close look at how grantmakers can be more effective at communicating with grantees.
- Foundation Communications: The Grantee Perspective- February 2006
Report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy that addresses how grantmakers can better communication with grantees. It identifies best practices from both grantmakers and grantees.
- Real Collaboration: A Guide for Grantmakers- January 2001
Real Collaboration is a guide for grantmakers — written by David La Piana in January 2001 at the request of the Ford Foundation — that makes recommendations on how program officers can make better, more effective use of collaboration among grantees.
Thank you again to Boeing for hosting such a great Meet the Donor session! Stay tuned for information about our next Meet the Donor program coming up in June.
And if you’re curious where the above pictures were taken, the breakfast was served in the Prologue Room at Boeing St. Louis Headquarters. The Prologue Room is home to a great air and space history exhibit that is not to be missed!