Who Moved My Funder?

Sections of this topic

    Using Moves Management To Secure Foundation Gifts

    Moves Management, initially developed by G.T. “Buck” Smith and David Dunlop at Cornell University, is a process of managing relationships with individual donors and moving them towards major giving.

    As cited in the white paper, Moves Management: The Science of Fundraising, according to David Dunlop, “the moves concept focuses major gift fundraising on changing people’s attitudes so they want to give. To do this, we take a series of initiatives or moves to develop each prospect’s awareness of, knowledge of, interest in, involvement with, and commitment to the institution and its mission.”

    Although Moves Management is typically associated with major gift fundraising, it can also be used to help cultivate grant prospects and steward existing grantors. As I wrote in my previous post, A Four-step Process for Effective Grantsmanship” — “Building a relationship with foundation trustees and/or managers takes time, but is a valuable investment to position your grant applications for success.”

    A planned series of “Moves” with foundation trustees and/or managers throughout the year will help you build relationships with these people who are critical to the success of your grant program.

    Moves are typically communications that don’t include an ask. The goal is to better connect the potential or existing funder with your NPO’s mission. Some examples of moves with foundation trustees and/or managers include:
    • Letters with feel-good stories – I recently sent a letter written by a student describing why
       the school means so much to him and his family
    • Invitations to tour your facility and meet the people you serve – I’m lucky because I work
      at a middle school and our students are almost always available to talk to a donor
    • Invitations to meet with your Executive Director or Program Director
    • Letters sharing fundraising successes – I sent a letter indicating that we were recently
      awarded a large state grant to trustees and managers at foundations funding the same
      program — this shows that our program is worthy of receiving a competitive government
      grant and that our organization is seeking additional funding to sustain the program
    • Invitations to special non-fundraising events

    It’s important to document your moves not only to track your progress, but also to help you spot any holes in your Moves Management process. Many donor databases have fields that track contacts, but I simply use a spreadsheet with the grantors in the first column and all of the moves I plan to make in a row at the top. I fill in the dates when I plan to make the moves, and this becomes the basis of my work plan for the year. I also include letters of intent, proposals, and grant reports so that my work plan encompasses all communications with every foundation.

    Throughout the year, I track when I actually make each move, and also document additional communications such as phone calls or e-mails, so that I have a record of all moves and communications with every foundation. Then I can easily see at various points during the year if I’m appropriately cultivating and stewarding every foundation.

    This might seem tedious, but after doing this work, I recently discovered that I was over stewarding some foundations that made small grant awards, and not doing enough to steward and cultivate some of our bigger funders and prospects. I was able to adjust where I was spending my time, and I believe this will pay off in the long run, helping to move more foundations to fund our grant proposals.


    Lynn deLearie Consulting, LLC, helps nonprofit organizations develop, enhance and expand grant programs, and helps them secure funding from foundations and corporations. Contact Lynn deLearie..


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