Building & Maintaining Relationships in the Private Sector
Foundations seek long-term relationships. They want to back people they can trust - people who are making a difference. Because of this, many foundations back the same people many times over. There is an increasing trend for recurrent funding which could potentially fund all stages of a documentary and many films over the course of any year.
Be professional in your approaches and responses to the organisation. As with traditional film funding there are many more requests than a foundation is able to support, so rejections are common.
Don't take rejections personally. Many submissions fail. Don't expect an explanation and remain positive and gracious. You may be successful next time. If you do the right thing it can help you in the future. There is a lot of competition in the sector and unlike the public broadcasters and the film financing agencies, there is no quota or obligation for a foundation to donate to documentary. Grantmakers give to many areas and the competition for capital is intense.
Unlike government agencies, this is not taxpayers' money but an individual's, or a collection of individuals' private life savings in many cases, which they choose to give to projects they believe will make a difference. They don't have to give to documentary.
It is vital to follow up with grantmakers at the completion of the project and beyond. A simple thank you, a copy of the finished program, acknowledgement in the credits, invitation to screenings and regular follow up letters advising of festival screenings and distribution information are basic requirements for building relationships. A foundation may not have a way of tracking the progress of the project once it enters the world and will appreciate being sent updated information on a regular basis. If you don't do these basic things, you are ruining your chances of receiving funding from the same foundation for your next film.
There is a real opportunity to build sustainable working relationships with foundations if your work as a filmmaker is dedicated to the same areas in which they work. Often foundations are looking for exciting, fresh projects to support.
NEXT: What Foundations Expect