How do you treat your best friends? Cultivating existing donors.
Wednesday, 30 July 2014 12:55

You know the old saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder?” Well, in the case of donors, that’s not true at all. The industry standard is that donors should be touched seven times each year in order to successfully create and support your relationship and grow their gifts.

One major paradigm shift must occur for successful and prosperous donor cultivation to begin: organizations must move from an organization-centric view to a donor-centric one. This means you must consider what your organization gives to its donors. What are they getting in return for their support? We’re not just talking about a calendar or return address labels either. It could be something bigger: for a faith based nonprofit, it could be prayer. It could also be as simple (and profound) as the feeling that they are helping a cause and truly making a difference.

Here are the top ten tips for donor cultivation:

1.    It’s everybody’s job. Not just the executive director, not just the board. Everyone from board president to volunteers is involved.
2.    It’s strategic. This means it’s two-part: general and specific. General cultivation is about group events (parties and runs, etc.). Specific activities are meant for special prospects and often on a smaller scale.
3.    It is systematic. What is your follow up plan after that big silent auction or 5K race? Adding people to your general mailing list, sending thank you letters, emails or phone calls? Do board members reach out to large donor prospects personally? (Hint: they should!)
4.    It is coordinated. How are you tracking donor interaction? It should all flow to one central person. Using a donor database with a notes feature can allow you to collect vital “intel” on donors.
5.    It’s equal opportunity. You have heard the stories: little unassuming grandmother gives $5 million to her church. Many, many times, large donors start out as small donors and all are equally important to the success of your programs.
6.    It’s not just personal interaction. Any time you communicate, you cultivate. What message do you most want your readers to receive?
7.    It can be unexpected. Perhaps a press release about a success story brings a prospective donor to you. Word of mouth from board members and staff can generate gifts for your organization as well.
8.    It leads to an ask. Let’s not forget what cultivation is all leading up to: the ASK. You are creating and maintaining a relationship that will hopefully lead to a gift to support your mission. Keep that in mind at all times.
9.    Corporations, foundations and individuals are similar. Similarities: cultivation is systematic, coordinated and strategic. Differences: deadlines are set by corporations and foundations and are external to your organization.
10.    Cultivation MUST have a budget. Cultivation is a process and a tool. Since it is often not predictable or immediate, it may be hard to justify. Use your success stories to make your case and get a line item in the budget for cultivation.

As always, kultivate is here to help you create a plan that will make your donors happy, which in turn makes your organization successful!


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