Low Hanging Fruit Still Needs Cultivation By: Kellie Brungard, GPC

In grant seeking, fundraising professionals sometimes refer to low-hanging fruit as the donors who give year after year with little effort, synonymous with “easy money.” While the term is often tossed around, it can be frustrating to funders and grant professionals. Funders may have fewer requirements to increase accessibility to nonprofits or value the longevity of relationships. The funder is still striving to make an impact in the community. Grant professionals understand the nuances of grant seeking and can see the industry landscape increase in competitiveness as more organizations apply for funding and foundations give conservatively in response to volatile markets. Fundraising strategies that rely on these dollars without stewardship may find themselves in the midst of a drought.

Here are tips on how to take a proactive step in grant-seeking strategy:

  1. Words matter. Grant professionals understand the nuances of language and the impact that words can have. When referring to people or groups of people, the term “low-hanging fruit” can seem demeaning. Choosing to speak about funders of any level with words of respect and empowerment can set an example for teams and partners in an organization. For example, instead of “low hanging fruit,” use “long-time funder” or “funders with fewer requirements,” which also clearly conveys what is meant by the statement.
  2. Develop a donor stewardship plan for grant funders. Does your organization only connect with the funder during the application cycle each year? Consider adding interactions that can help grow the relationship beyond a check in the mail. Examples include an invitation to a social or outreach event hosted by your nonprofit, calendaring a time outside of the application process to reach out and provide an update or tell them about something new and exciting, or sending a holiday card signed by team members. Take a look at how the development team stewards individual donors as inspiration for grant funders. AGS has on-demand training if you want to learn more about building long-lasting relationships.
  3. Align with the funder’s priorities. Before starting an application, research the funder’s priorities, requirements, and recent giving, making note of any changes or trends. Then, consider the organization’s programs and services. Identify any new programs or focus areas that might be of interest to the funder. Reach out to the funder to discuss alignment and see if this direction sparks interest. In some cases, a funder has identified they are only interested in a certain program or segment of the population. Not every strategy is appropriate for every funder; however, these steps show an organization is engaged and values relationships. It’s also simply a good grant strategy!
  4. Give content a refresh. Look at the applications submitted to the funder for the last two years. Is the content the same with a few updates to numbers served and outcome results? Organizations can fall into the habit of rinse and repeat with recurring funders. While some content remains the same, such as organization history and mission, there are many sections that can be refreshed to give an interesting new perspective. This can be done efficiently with a case statement that includes a comprehensive description covering common grant application components (e.g., goals and outcomes, sustainability plan, needs statement, and organizational accomplishments).

Every nonprofit appreciates the long-term funder and wants to preserve these relationships. Choosing to maintain strategies for good grantsmanship and using terminology that respects funders can build a positive culture within an organization. Let’s all agree to ditch the term “low-hanging fruit” and say what is truly meant ­­­– communities working together.

If you are interested in grant services, training, or federal review services, or our career opportunities,  Julie Assel, CGMS, GPC, President/CEO, will be happy to talk with you about this opportunity and provide you with a quote for grant services.

This blog post is aligned with the Grant Professional Certification Institute’s Competencies and Skills.

Competency #8: Knowledge of methods and strategies that cultivate and maintain relationships between fund-seeking and recipient organizations and funders

Skill 8.02. Identify strategies to determine funder-relation approaches that suit fund-seeking entities’ missions, cultures, and values

Skill 8.03. Identify methods of relationship cultivation, communication, recognition, and stewardship that might appeal to specific funders

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