How to Turn Effective Communication into Collaboration

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:

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!


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