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Best Practices in Funder Relations

May 09, 2017

What does it take to build a strong relationship with funders? What elements does a successful grant proposal have? How can an organization best convey its program's alignment to the foundation's investment priorities?

These are some of the questions that a group of funders will address at this year's third annual Washington State Charter School Association Conference. In the breakout session "Best Practices in Funder Relations," ECMC Foundation's senior program director Kyle Miller will join other grantmakers to provide recommendations and tips for organizations interested in exploring strategies that will help them get noticed by grantmakers, write a successful proposal and develop strong relationships with funders.

Drawing from nearly 10 years of experience in philanthropy and over 20 in the education sector, Miller will share these tips:

  1. Conduct extensive research and due diligence: Before drafting a proposal and reaching out to funders, learn as much as you can about the foundation. Spend time on the foundation's website to learn about their priorities, processes, and the types of organizations and activities they fund. Read any recent annual reports the foundation published.

  2. Learn from the foundation's grantees: Review current grantee lists and their websites to glean information. If possible take the time to talk to the foundation's current grantees to gain their perspective about the funder's work and their areas of investment. This research will help you determine if your program is aligned with the foundation's Theory of Change.

  3. Stick to your framing: Aligning your program's work to the foundation's investment priorities is important, but you should avoid regurgitating the way a foundation talks about their work. It's better to cross walk your work to a foundation's framing. This will also help funders better understand what your program is trying to accomplish.

  4. Build a relationship: Cultivating and building relationships with funders improves your success rate with receiving a grant. Spend time nurturing that relationship. If possible, have a current grantee connect you to the foundation personnel.

  5. Promote positive outcomes: In your grant proposal and conversations with funders, focus on any evidence —even if it is early—of positive program outcomes and impact. Most foundations are interested in success stories. It also helps them see how their investments can expand and enhance your results.

The annual conference in Washington brings together national, regional and local experts in the education sector and is a great opportunity for charter school leaders, teachers, board members, parents and advocates to network, learn and celebrate the major wins and milestones achieved towards growing the charter movement in Washington State. The event this year will include engaging keynote speeches and meaningful programming, covering topics including teaching and learning, policy and law, community/family engagement, advocacy and communications.

Learn more about the conference and register for the event.

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