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Rapport & Connection | Strengthening Funder Relationships

Filed in Relationship Advancement — July 14, 2020

In our blog we’ve pulled back the veil on our approach and methodologies through a largely ‘plug and play’ resources and Masterclasses so you can skillfully engage the funding partners your mission deserves.

Black Fox Global

Welcome to the Blog

Black Fox Fundraising Handbook

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by Natalie Rekstad, Founder & CEO of Black Fox Philanthropy, B Corp

Recognizing that less-resourced NGOs can’t afford to engage our fundraising services, one of the ways Black Fox Philanthropy serves the social sector is to be open-source on much of the content we’ve developed.  We regularly release this content via our blog, and today is one of those days!


 Prepared by: Natalie Rekstad, Founder & CEO | Black Fox Philanthropy, B Corp


Your funders can be your greatest champions and thought-partners. Engage these supporters as your allies through a process of understanding what is most deeply appealing to them about your organization, what would increase their engagement, and learning how to uniquely steward them in a way that will motivate them to stay personally and financially invested for the long-term.

The First Rule of Engagement is Listening. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood (Covey). Be genuinely curious about the funder’s story, and appreciate their philanthropic journey to date.  When you ask your questions, deeply listen to their responses. Worth repeating:  Deeply listen to their responses! Listening, not pitching, is the pathway to deeper engagement for both sides, resulting in greater emotional investment in your organization that translates into greater financial investment and advocacy for the mission of your organization. 

Each 1:1 meeting or call is customized based upon the funder/foundation profile, but below are questions that can be used. You can also pull key questions from the “Leading the Donor Dance” document. To start on the right foot, make sure you research their giving profile, and reference at least two key things about it that dovetails with your work. For example:

FUNDER: “Our mission is to foster a transformation from a world of domination and exploitation to one of collaboration and partnership.”

YOU: “Yours is such a powerful mission statement; tell me more about how you arrived at that focus….”

FUNDER: “At the heart of our portfolio are our partners with a focus upon infrastructure.”

YOU: “How did you arrive at infrastructure partners being at the core of your strategy?” 

Always lead with gratitude! The objective of the call/meeting is to: 

1) Make the funder feel seen, loved, appreciated, and important.

2) Make the funder a thought partner, and thereby more invested in your success, by engaging them with key questions. Further, funders have a unique view; there is a great deal to be learned in these interactions that can strengthen your organization. 

3) Determine the relationship health with your organization and address any issues.

4) Make the donor feel confident in their investment in your organization, and poised to make more significant gifts moving forward.

5) Uncover potential for deeper engagement beyond funding with your organization, such as board service or hosting cultivation events.

These conversations are often deep and affirming.  It will also help bolster the staff/board members’ commitment to your organization to be in such deep conversation with your funding partners.

Meeting Flow:

I’ve been so looking forward to talking with you. Thank you for carving out 30 – 40 minutes to share your experience and insights about your support of our organization. 

The reason we are talking with you is to help craft a very high-level stewardship for our most committed supporters and creating strategy around attracting more partners like you who care as deeply as we do about (your issue area).  

Sample Questions:


  1.     What was the inspiration for you initially becoming engaged with (organization)? 


  1.     You’ve been generous with your investment in our organization. What is it about us that inspires this level of deep engagement?


  1.     What do you find most compelling about our mission of _____________?


  1.     This works particularly well in the female space: Our deepest passions often spring from our deepest wounds. Is there something in your personal story that would lead you to be such a powerful partner to us in solving ___________________?


  1.     What is it that you’re most excited about in your partnership with us?


  1.     What sets (organization) apart in a positive way from other organizations you support? 


  1.     What are some areas that you feel could be improved upon?


  1.     What are the stories of our impact that most touch your heart?


  1.     What is your ultimate vision for our partnership in solving ______________?


  1. What’s at stake if this vision isn’t realized?
  1. Scale of 1 – 10, how strong do you feel the relationship between (organization and you) is?  What would make it a 10?


  1. Would you consider (organization) to be one of your top funded organizations.


  1. What is your greatest funding amount given to other organizations/issue areas, and what did they do that inspired that level of generosity?


  1. Option One: What would it need to look like for you to feel confident and comfortable investing in (organization) at that level?


  1. Option Two: What would it need to look like for you to feel inspired to make a stretch gift of $XX to (organization)?


  1. Option Three: What would it need to look like for you to feel comfortable increasing your investment to a milestone (for you and organization) figure of $XX?


  1. We are planning X campaign in November to accomplish X, and we’d like to  invite you to join us.  What would you need to know between now and then in order to make a Leadership gift of $X?


  1. Your involvement is an immense part of our impact and its legacy in creating change. How do you see your legacy being further shaped with us over the next few years?


  1. In your planned giving/estate plan, is our mission part of your legacy?


  1. Under what circumstances would you include (organization) in your planned giving?


  1. Under what circumstances do you discontinue funding an organization?


  1. Do any of these apply to your funder?  What would it need to look like for you to:


  1. Make a transformational gift of $XX
  2. Make an unrestricted gift of $XX
  3. Make a 3-year pledge of $XX
  4. Join a launch committee for a campaign
  5. Leverage a challenge grant of $XX
  6. Host a gathering, Jeffersonian Dinner 
  7. Include us in your Legacy / Estate Plan
  8. Join our Board
  9.   Other


  1. As one of our most significant partners, we want to be sure our appreciation for your support is truly felt. Beyond our deepest gratitude, how can we show our gratitude for you in a way that would really be felt by you?


  1. What other funders do you feel should know about (organization)?


  1. Would you be open to making introductions? Or have me reach out and share that you encouraged me to do so?


  1. Is there anything that I may have missed that you could share that would strengthen our organization or our relationship with you?


Close with gratitude and a handwritten note within 24 hours.