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Funder and Grantee: Building a Relationship

Building a Relationship between Funder and Grantee

Even at the early stages of the grant application process, it is necessary and helpful for applicants to pay attention to who will be the funder and how the relationship should be built between the parties. Relationship building can be challenging, and some funders even impose limitations on grantees in terms of the form and the frequency of contacts that the grantee may initiate. From this perspective, an RFP plays the crucial role in establishing and explaining the requirements and expectations of one of the parties with which the other party undertakes to comply. However, it is important to understand that the relationship goes beyond grant documentation, and the success of this relationship may ultimately affect the success of the project and the future of collaboration between the applicant and a given funder.

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For example, the Clemens Family Corporation (the CFC) states its technical requirements for applicants in its instructions (“Charitable gift application instructions,” 2015); what deserves particular attention, however, is the beginning of the instructions: the CFC starts with explaining the corporation’s perceived mission and vision. This is what applicants should particularly address. Apart from understanding what a funder requires, it might be helpful for applicants to consider the general tone of RFPs and the meaningfulness that the funder puts into the project. This is aimed at building a mutual understanding that will guarantee that the two parties may cooperate successfully.

The importance of relationship-building in this context can be explained by considering the possible effects of the relationship on the grant process. Even if the applicant technically complies with all the requirements but fails to develop an effective relationship with the funder, the collaboration may be terminated or never be repeated. Several ways to increase the chances of the relationship’s success can be explored in the proposed example.

First of all, it is recommended that the applicant side has a person who manages the grant application process and is responsible for the communication element (Ward, 2012). Having a manager who can speak to the funder on behalf of the entire grant project is helpful in terms of relationship building, and funders recognize this, too. Apart from being honest and providing complete and accurate information, this communication should involve “strong feedback loops” (“Partnerships,” n.d.), and it is noteworthy that it is largely the responsibility of the grantees to communicate their intentions and activities to the funder.

Based on the principles outlined above, it is recommended that the Indian Creek Foundation and the CFC develop an initial relationship based on the understanding of the similarity between the two organizations’ missions. For decades, the Indian Creek Foundation has been helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, which fully complied with the CFC’s declared intention to support philanthropic initiatives. A manager from the Indian Creek Foundation should pay particular attention to establishing this connection and correlation between what the two organizations do. Further, constant communication should be established, so that the CFC is informed about the grantee’s activities.

The main benefit of building and supporting the relationship is that the cooperation between the two organizations can potentially go beyond one particular project and grow into new projects with greater potential impact. Common goals are a prerequisite for such a relationship, and communication is the instrument of ensuring that further collaboration is possible, and both parties are interested in it.


Charitable gift application instructions. (2015). Web.

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Partnerships: Frameworks for working together. (n.d.). Web.

Ward, D. (2012). Writing grant proposals that win (4th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning. Web.

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