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Engage Your Donors: Step-by-Step Guide to Planning Successful Funder Briefings

In the world of nonprofit organizations, establishing and nurturing relationships with donors and funders isn't just a part of the job—it's at the core of success. Donor and funder engagement is the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations, ensuring sustained support and enabling mission-driven work. Effective engagement not only helps in securing the necessary funding but also in building long-lasting partnerships that go beyond monetary transactions. Among various strategies to foster relationships with both private and public institutional funders, such as foundations, corporations, and government agencies, funder briefings stand out as a pivotal tool. Let’s dive into comprehensive insights and actionable strategies for planning and executing successful funder briefings.

A. Understanding Funder Briefings

Funder briefings are essential touchpoints between nonprofits and their funders, providing a platform to showcase impact, discuss upcoming initiatives, and foster meaningful dialogue. These sessions offer an insider view into the organization’s work, challenges, achievements, and future plans. While primarily targeting institutional funders, nonprofits can also invite major donors to enhance engagement. This flexibility makes funder briefings powerful tools for transparency and deepening support.

These briefings can provide:

  • An overview of the nonprofit's current initiatives and future direction.

  • A showcase of the tangible impact of past and ongoing projects.

  • An interactive setting for funders and donors to ask questions, offer feedback, and share ideas.

The shift towards virtual platforms for funder briefings has revolutionized the way organizations engage with their funders and donors (especially for national organizations and organizations that have supporters across the US and internationally). Despite the digital setting, organizations can still maintain a personal touch by incorporating interactive elements such as live Q&A sessions, virtual breakout rooms, and personalized follow-up communications. Also with enough preparation mailing a physical item to attendees (brochure, swag, teas, etc), can make the event feel more intimate. As a result, virtual funder briefings not only extend the reach of these events but also provide a more inclusive and interactive experience for donors, fostering deeper engagement and connection with the organization's mission and impact, and start the collective conversation between their supporters on how they can continue to invest and resource the organization. 

B. Keys to Effective Funder Briefings

Planning and executing successful funder briefings requires a strategic approach that encompasses several key steps:

  • Plan Ahead: Early planning cannot be overstated. Start planning well in advance to identify and co-create/host the briefing with a longtime funder (or two). This partnership can enhance credibility and draw additional funders. Collaboration with co-hosts ensures that logistical and technical aspects are managed smoothly, setting a solid foundation for a successful event.

  • Craft a Compelling Agenda: Develop an agenda that balances information sharing with engagement. In addition to updating the attendees on where you stand with current operations, a new project or a fundraising campaign, include segments that allow for interaction, such as Q&A sessions or breakout discussions. A well-crafted agenda should outline desired outcomes and allocate time for meaningful dialogue. Involve co-hosts and key stakeholders in the agenda development to ensure it resonates with funders and addresses their interests.

  • Engage and Manage Expectations: Use the briefing as an opportunity to truly engage with funders. Clarify that the goal is to inform and connect rather than solicit immediate donations. Set clear expectations for the session to ensure alignment. Utilize personalized invitations, peer-to-peer recommendations, and exclusive content to boost attendance. During the briefing, encourage active participation and facilitate meaningful discussions, allowing funders to ask questions and provide feedback.

  • Follow-Up Actions: The real magic happens after the briefing. Timely follow-ups, personalized acknowledgments, and updates on discussed topics can reinforce the relationship, turning a single interaction into a step towards long-term engagement. Send thank-you emails, provide additional materials, and schedule future touchpoints to keep the dialogue going. Additionally, many funders may view the briefing as a comprehensive update, reducing the need for individual reports. Share the presentation materials as part of your follow-up, and include funders in your key contacts list. Plan a debrief with staff and partners to discuss next steps and ensure efficient reporting. Make Funder Briefings a habit: Funder briefings are not one-and-done. Make them an annual event. Or more frequent if you are in the middle of a capital campaign.

By meticulously planning each aspect of the briefing and focusing on post-event follow-up, nonprofits can transform funder briefings from simple presentations into opportunities for lasting engagement and support.

C. Challenges Involved

Despite the benefits, funder briefings are not without their hurdles. Key challenges include:

  • Ensuring Follow-Up Actions: Maintaining engagement post-briefing requires a strategic follow-up plan. This is crucial to nurture the initial engagement and sustain funder/donor interest. But follow-up can be held by multiple staff, board, and funder co-hosts who are given clear direction around follow-up objectives (i.e. collecting any additional questions/thoughts, what resonated most with them and aligns with their giving focuses, and what else would they need to know to consider their next grant/gift to the organization).

  • Managing Donor Expectations: Clearly setting and managing expectations can prevent misunderstandings and ensure a positive experience. The goal is to deliver a concise yet comprehensive view of the current operation, programming/projects and/or latest fundraising campaign without overwhelming or underwhelming participants.

  • Maximizing Attendance: Donors are often busy individuals with many commitments, making it challenging to secure their attendance. Funder briefings are most effective for organizations with at least 6-10 grantors, ensuring a reasonable turnout even if only half attend. Leveraging networks and offering exclusive insights can help draw more attendees and enhance engagement. Also including invitations to prospective funders is another way to cultivate a new relationship and give them the opportunity to hear from current supporters. This can be a direct invite from the organization as well as asking the funder co-host(s) to invite other funders in their network that they feel would resonate with the organization’s mission & vision.

To overcome these challenges, meticulous planning, clear communication, and a genuine desire to foster deeper relationships with donors are essential. Here are some strategies:

  • Tailored Invitations: Personalize invitations to make funders feel valued and important. Highlight exclusive content or updates to entice attendance.

  • Strategic Planning: Collaborate with co-hosts and partners to ensure all logistical and technical aspects are smoothly managed. This enhances the effectiveness of the briefing.

  • Flexible Agendas: Develop agendas that allow room for organic discussions and interactions, making the event more engaging and less rigid. This approach can help manage expectations and make the session more dynamic and interactive.

  • Ask without Asking: Remember, the funder briefing is not the time to make an ask, but it can be used to secure long-term engagement. When funder briefings are done right, funders find themselves compelled to join the movement.  Encourage current funders to discuss why they are committed to your organization or project, and highlight how others might get on board.

Funder briefings represent a golden opportunity for nonprofits to deepen engagement with their institutional funders and major donors. They offer a platform for transparency, discussion, and mutual growth that can significantly impact an organization's ability to fulfill its mission. By understanding the critical components of successful funder briefings, planning effectively, and navigating potential challenges with grace, nonprofits can enhance their donor relationships in meaningful ways. 

Is your nonprofit ready to take its donor engagement to the next level through effective funder briefings? Connect with us to learn more about strategies that can help your organization thrive.


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