Holiday Etiquette for Grant Recipients ©


By Dr. Vanessa S. O’Neal



It never ceases to amaze me how many organizations are funded each year by corporate and private foundations, but during the holidays the grant recipients don’t do anything to show gratitude for their generosity. Then they wonder why they cannot obtain additional funding the next year.

Yes, holiday etiquette matters.

After you received your grant award you called the organization and said “Thank You” 50 million times for funding you and reiterated how much the money would benefit  your program and services. “Isn't that enough?” you ask. The answer is, YES, if you want to be a one-hit wonder. If you would like to build a lasting partnership and show confidence and good measure, NO!

Why is this important you ask? Let us start from the beginning. When a funder grants you money they give it to you because they want you to have it and they want you to provide services that they are interested in. And, they like to feel appreciated for having done so.

However, the appreciation that they feel is nothing compared to the impact you would make on them if you took a minute to send them a card, a thank you gift or something during the holidays. It does more than say “Thank You” for the 51 millionth time. It keeps your organization fresh in front of them.

Examples of holiday etiquette

I always suggest that an organization not only send a card, but also perhaps a photo in a nice frame of an activity that was funded or a cup, pens or whatever was given to the employees as a gift. I am aware of one organization that gives their employees mugs for Christmas. I suggested that they send a mug to the funder and a little impromptu report of how the program was doing. The funder was very pleased and impressed with the thoughtfulness, and were the first to call this organization when they found out that they had surplus funds. Go figure.

Another organization focused on children and art decided to turn their children's finger-painted holiday art into cards to be sent to the funders with a little note saying “because of you our children can learn to appreciate Art”. Nothing elaborate or expensive but did it make an impact? Yes!

When thinking of the funder and trying to be creative remember that you are not trying to “buy” the funder, you are showing gratitude; you are giving them a reason to be enthused and continually interested in your project and/or organization. Don’t be too elaborate, stay well within your means, and use what you have. Remember, it is the thought that counts.

Staying general

Now, understanding that not all people celebrate Christmas how do you stay politically correct and embarrassment free. Simple. No matter what you do, be general. No, you don’t have to call each and every one of your funders and say “Hey, what holiday do you celebrate?” If you stay general you cannot go wrong. Example: Don’t purchase or make cards that say “Merry Christmas” you could ultimately offend someone, instead purchase cards that say “Happy Holidays” or purchase a blank card and write in it.

In the case of the finger-painting cards, all their cards had animals with a winter scene, trees or rainbows. None of which could be misconstrued to be distasteful.

The key here is creativity and, trust me, the best way to stay in the minds and hearts of a funder is by keeping them in mind.


Dr. Vanessa S. O’Neal is Founder of Families4Life, Founder of the National Society of Grant Writing Professionals, and the author of Grant Me The Money: The Practical Guide To Successful Grant Writing Practice.