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Strategies for Sustaining Partnerships with Philanthropies

Rural programs can use different strategies for sustaining partnerships with philanthropies. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to sustaining a partnership with a philanthropy.

For rural programs currently receiving funding from philanthropies, sustainability strategies include:

  • Fulfilling grant expectations. One of the most important ways to sustain a partnership with a philanthropy is to fulfill the expectations of the grant and achieve positive outcomes.
  • Staying in regular contact with the philanthropy. During the grant period, in addition to fulfilling the philanthropy's reporting requirements, it is important to stay in regular contact with the philanthropy. Perhaps quarterly, or when appropriate, rural programs may wish to email the philanthropy a short update or success story (for example, “we had 1,000 people attend a workshop you helped to fund”). This is a good opportunity to share an achievement and illustrate the program's impact. Even after the grant has ended, philanthropies like to hear about the impact of the programs they have funded. Additionally, rural organizations should ensure that they have more than one contact at the philanthropy in the event their project officer or point of contact leaves the philanthropy; the rural organization must focus on sustaining a relationship with the philanthropy as a whole.
  • Building trust. If there are challenges with the project, or a need to adjust the program, call the philanthropy to discuss the issue. Unexpected events, such as staff turnover or delays in the timeline, can significantly affect the success of a project. Trust, honesty, and communication — specifically, ensuring that the philanthropy is aware of any changes to the project — are critical to sustaining a positive relationship over time.
  • Staying aware of the foundation's current priorities. The foundation's priorities may change over time. It is important to visit the foundation's website and review its newsletters and publications, in order to be aware of current priorities and trends.
  • Leveraging the relationships with the foundation to learn about other like-minded organizations. Rural organizations can utilize their funder's knowledge and expertise to learn about like-minded funders and help them to strategize for growth and sustainability.