Building Relationships

“We are in a relationship business and so the more relationships that we have, the more opportunities, as a non-profit, we have to tell our story and to bring the community along and let them know what is going on.”

To successfully implement the funding strategy you created in Developing a Funding Strategy, you will need to build professional relationships with your community, funders, and other organisations.

Successful professional relationships require:

  • A shared understanding of goals and objectives
  • Acknowledging and valuing differences in diverse organisations, partnerships and individuals
  • Mutual respect and trust
  • Sharing information and resources in an efficient manner.

Relationship building is critical to any effective organisation. The key to a successful relationship is negotiation and communication. To build relationships:

  • Understand what your organisation does and identify other organisations with similar visions, missions, and interests
  • Attend networking opportunities
  • Work out what each organisation is prepared/able to commit to the relationship.

ALWAYS keep a lookout for opportunities to establish new relationships and nurture current partnerships.

Building Relationships With Your Community

Building a successful relationship with your community requires you to:

  • Know who your community is
  • Establish clear communication lines with key representatives
  • Involve local community members on your Board of Management
  • Maintain regular contact with local government.

See Identifying Needs and About Your Organisation for more information about how to build relationships with your community.

Building Relationships With Funding Bodies

You must get to know your funder before you develop your proposal and prepare your funding application. 

Build a proactive and responsive relationship with the funding body. Contact them to:

  • Clarify their expectations and desired outcomes
  • Check whether you can append or provide additional information (e.g., information which is not requested but will help to sell your organisation or concept to the funding body) at a later date
  • Improve your understanding of the assessment process
  • Obtain insight into other programs they have previously funded and/or looked upon favourably
  • Promote the unique aspects of your organisation.

Funding bodies generally:

  • Have specific goals they want to achieve
  • Want you to demonstrate how YOU CAN HELP THEM achieve their goals.

Your relationship with the funding body does not stop once your recieve funding. You should also work to maintain relationships with your existing funding partners. Keep them engaged and committed to your organisation by:

  • Demonstrating mutual respect and trust
  • Sharing information and resources
  • Promoting your organisation's successes
  • Responding to their needs
  • Acknowledging their contribution (see below).

Partnering With Other Organisations

Consider partnering with other organisations (see Identifying Opportunities for Collaboration) to develop a funding application:

  1. Make general inquiries (e.g., through annual reports, websites) about the other organisation
  2. Identify potential common areas of interest (e.g., similar mission statements)
  3. Make initial contact and arrange a face-to-face meeting with a key person
  4. After the meeting, send a thank you email and encourage further contact.

If you decide to partner, make sure:

  • Both organisations clearly understand their respective roles -  NOT only in relation to the preparation of the application BUT also subsequent roles if the application is successful
  • You develop a formal agreement (e.g., Memorandum of Understanding) to avoid potential confusion and/or conflict including:
    • A statement about what each organisation brings to the partnership
    • A clear indication of respective roles and functions
    • A statement about what you expect to get out of the partnership
    • Clear communication lines - nominate key contact people
    • How the funding will be allocated if the application is successful
  • You are comfortable with the partnership arrangement and communicate early concerns
  • Contingencies are in place if things go wrong.

Acknowledge Your Funding Body and Partners

Ensure you appropriately acknowledge anyone who has assisted or contributed to your organisation. 

Acknowledgement can be expressed:

  • During an event
  • In your newsletters or annual reports
  • On your website
  • In promotional materials
  • In a personal letter from your CEO or Chair.

TIPS: Building Relationships

  • Identify who you want to build a professional relationship with and why.
  • Utilise existing networks to identify opportunities for building new professional relationships.
  • Be clear about what your organisation does and what it can bring to a relationship with a funder and potential partners.
  • Create a list of items you want in a relationship/partnership.
  • Get to know the funding body and potential partners.
  • Communicate professionally with funding bodies and potential funders.
  • Be open and honest when you communicate with other organisations.
  • Be prepared to listen and share information and ideas. 
  • If you do not have much experience in dealing with different funding bodies, speak to other organisations about their experiences.

References & Resources


Complete the activities below by en​tering text into the fields provided and/or completing the attached documents. If you download and complete an attached document, you will have to save this to your personal file.

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Activity 5.2.1 The 30 Second Pitch

In thirty seconds state:

The name of your organisation
What your organisation does
What you want
Why you want it

5.2.1.pdf (93 KB)

Activity 5.2.2 From Contact to Collaboration to Client

To successfully implement the funding strategy you created in Developing a Funding Strategy, you will need to build professional relationships with your community, funders, and other organisations.

5.2.2.pdf (136 KB)

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