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How to build great relationships with funders 


THE TAKEAWAY: Organisations that invest time and effort in building and maintaining strong relationships with donors – including foundations and other grantmakers – are the most successful fundraisers. Strong relationships require careful research, great communication, thoughtful strategy and a collaborative approach.


Tips and insights from funders themselves 


We know that organisations that invest time and effort in building and maintaining relationships with donors are the most successful fundraisers. But what does this mean in practice?

The following tips were distilled from a webinar presented in 2020 by Wendy Brooks & Partners in concert with two of Australia’s most experienced philanthropy specialists: Vedran Drakulic OAM, the CEO of Gandel Philanthropy, and Will Beresford, a relationships manager with Equity Trustees.

Vedran Drakulic

Vedran Drakulic of Gandel Philanthropy

Will Beresford

Will Beresford of Equity Trustees

Do your research

Communication is key

Be strategic, and have your house in order

Adopt a genuine, honest and collaborative approach

  • Be genuine and honest about what funding is required and why. Decision-makers can tell if a grant writer is trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, and this can have a damaging impact on funder relationships. 
  • Funders want to know what's happening with the projects and programs they are supporting – no surprises. Communicate both challenges and successes to keep funders updated and allow for feedback and input if things aren’t going to plan.
  • If you've got the ear of a funder, test out a couple of key programs and see what feedback you get about what you're trying to achieve. Ask them whether they've got any suggestions about how you might better position your application or approach. Listening, as distinct from just providing information, is key. Funders want to know there's a symbiotic relationship, not just a 'take' mentality.
  • Board members must be knowledgeable about the organisation's key funders and the fundraising strategy. There is nothing worse than when a funder meets a board member for the first time and the funder says "We (financially) support your organisation," and the board member says, "Oh, really? Thank you." Board members should be aware of funders and the administrators of those funds so that, to the best of their ability, they can proactively thank them and build relationships with funders.
  • Funders want to see a strong, thriving not-for-profit sector. If you need their assistance, reach out to them. If you've taken on board all the information outlined above, they're likely to respond: "We are in your corner and we want to support you in any way we can."
Catherine Brooks

Catherine Brooks, Wendy Brooks & Partners

This help sheet was prepared by Catherine Brooks, a senior advisor with Wendy Brooks & Partners. To view a recording of the webinar on which the help sheet is based, click here.

Wendy Brooks & Partners provides strategic fundraising services, cultivating relationships and connecting investors and funders with programs and activities to maximise impact.