Cultivating Foundations

Patrick J. Heryford

Writing grants is a major source of revenue for many non-profits. However, writing the proposal is only one part of the process. We asked Patrick Heryford, the director of corporate and foundation relations for the YMCA of San Francisco to share his experience.

Saad & Shaw: You mentioned that there is so much more to grantsmanship than writing a proposal and sending it off to a funder. Would you share with our readers a little bit about what that “so much more” is?

Patrick Heryford: An accurate and well-written proposal is essential, however, building open and trusting relationships with funders is considerably more important. It is easier for a foundation to say “no” to an anonymous piece of paper than it is to a human being. By the time you submit a proposal, you should have already had conversations with foundation officers and you should have a good idea as to whether or not you will be funded. If you do not have existing relationships, attend industry events where you will have access to officers. In the Bay Area, Development Executives Roundtable (www.dersf.org) frequently hosts “Meet the Grantmaker” type panels, and the San Francisco Business Times hosts an annual Corporate Philanthropy Summit.

Saad & Shaw: What do you consider the top five things an organization should include as part of their stewardship of grantmakers?

Patrick Heryford:
1. Do Good Work: If you do good work that has a positive impact in the community, funders will recognize this and it will make your fundraising efforts much easier. And remember that foundation officers talk to one another. An officer who is well-versed on your mission could very well become your advocate with other funders.
2. Research Funders: Be sure you are applying to the right funder for the right program and not wasting the officer’s time (or yours). My favorite online research tool is the Foundation Center’s Online Directory (www.foundationcenter.org).
3. Meet Deadlines: Use whatever record-keeping system you need to ensure you meet application and reporting deadlines. For reports, if you can’t make a deadline, let the funder know well in advance. My experience has been that they will give you an extension provided you are up front with them.
4. Communicate: During the grant period, you must let the funder know of significant staffing or organizational changes, or any reallocations to the budget you presented with the proposal. Invite them to events connected with the funded program, and send them updates related to the program. If your proposal is declined, send a brief hand-written note to thank them for considering your request; it will help them remember you next time you apply.
5. Check In With Your Program Staff: Schedule regular meetings with the people who are running the program at your organization. Are they making progress toward the goals and objectives? Are they using the funds for the appropriate items? Better to keep tabs on this during the grant period than at the end when a report is due.

Saad & Shaw: Any last words of advice?

Patrick Heryford: Some may think that due to the struggling economy and foundations’ reduced assets, a nonprofit should scale back their stewardship. The opposite is true. Now is the time to ramp up your stewardship program. When was the last time you communicated with past funders? You need to stay on their minds so that when the economy turns around, they will know you and your organization’s mission.

Patrick Heryford can be reached at pheryford@ymcasf.org.

© Mel and Pearl Shaw 2010.

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