Step 3: How to market grant awards and steward funders
This is the final post in a series of three blogs the Dot Org team is writing on grants.
Last week, Lauryn Rosinski, our marketing and PR account coordinator, explained how to write a compelling grant. She outlined the process and explained the importance of telling your nonprofit’s story, providing statistics and using SMART goals, among other tips. If you haven’t already, read her blog post here.
Before that, Sara Lundenberger, our director of nonprofit consulting, wrote about starting a grant program, determining funding priorities, studying grantors and grant programs, and establishing deadlines. If you haven’t read her blog post yet, check it out.
Once you receive a grant award, it might seem like the process has come full circle. However, there are still some important steps left in the grant cycle. Here are some tips for acknowledging and marketing your grant awards.
Thanking your funders
As soon as you receive notice that your grant request has been funded, you need to put together a thank you. This should be a letter from the leader of your organization. Be specific in the message, including the name of the foundation you are thanking, the amount awarded and the project they are supporting. Express your gratitude and tell them you will be in touch regarding the project’s outcome. Make sure this thank you is printed on your letterhead and mailed soon after receiving the grant. If you were notified about the award via email, feel free to respond with an email but make sure you send an official thank you letter as well. This thank you letter and grant reports, which I will touch on later, are important parts of funder stewardship.
Managing incoming grants
When you start a grant program, you need to make sure you are prepared to manage incoming grants internally. This means establishing appropriate accounting practices and ensuring that grants are accounted for as a distinct source of income. You need to keep track of the purpose of each grant and note which programs the money is allotted to support. This will ensure you are spending grants appropriately and in a timely manner. Monitor program expenditures closely and make sure you are prepared to share a report with grantors once the money has been spent or the program is complete.
Reporting on grant awards
Some funders will tell you when they expect a report on expenditures and what the report should include. Others may not mention report requirements at all. We believe it is important to provide a report even if a foundation does not explicitly say it requires one. This is a crucial step because it shows funders exactly how you impacted the community with the money they granted you. They chose to support you for a reason and it’s important to tell them you used their money appropriately and within the timeline you laid out.
If they do not request one earlier, plan to send an update as soon as the program is completed, or the money is spent. If the program is ongoing, send an update within a year of receiving the grant award. These reports also help you build a relationship with the funder and lay the groundwork for ongoing communication. Additionally, showing foundations you are doing what you promised and that you are open to sharing updates builds trust, which could make them more likely to support your next grant request.
Marketing your grant award
Grant awards are exciting news that you should share with your staff and the outside community. Grants increase your capacity to serve your constituents and show that funders are supporting your mission and work in the community. Some funders will make their own announcements about the grant awards they give or request you announce the award in a specific way.
Even if they don’t give you guidelines for marketing the award, you should have a plan in place to spread the news! Some tactics include distributing a press release, highlighting the award in an upcoming newsletter, including an overview in your annual report and announcing the award on your social media channels. No matter what route you decide to take for marketing the award, make sure the announcement includes a thank you to the funder and an overview of the program they are supporting with their gift. This is also a good moment to remind the public of your mission and your ongoing efforts to support the community through your work.
The grant process is often referred to as a cycle for a reason. It is continuous and requires planning and ongoing communication if you want it to be successful. Marketing your grant awards and stewarding your funders are key parts of the cycle. Marketing the awards is important to establish credibility with the community and other potential funders. Thanking funders and providing reports on how their money is spent helps you build relationships with foundations that could result in ongoing support.