What I Learned From My Dog About Cultivation and Stewardship

What I learned from my dog about cultivation and stewardship

What can a dog possibly teach us about donor relations? When it comes to cultivating and stewarding donors, a combination of persistence and tailoring your approach for each donor works best. My dog Maya has taught me about both.

A Tailored Approach

Most days, Maya and I manage to fit in a walk. Some mornings, I get caught up with other priorities, and Maya takes it upon herself to remind me that it’s time to get out. She employs different techniques to get my attention: sitting pretty, a thumping tail, a verbal plea, her head in my lap.

Maya’s got cultivation all figured out—try different approaches until you find what resonates best with each donor. If you call Donor A and she never calls back, try email. If you’ve invited Mr. and Mrs. Donor B to visit your site and they never make it, try setting up a meeting at their home.

Just as you have communication preferences, so do your donors. It’s your job to figure out what works best for each of them. Of course, you can’t personalize your cultivation touches to such an extent that they are not scalable, but at the very least you can note in your donor database that Donor A prefers email contact, for example.


It is critical to demonstrate persistence and long-term commitment to your stewardship plan. In the case of Maya, I’m not suggesting she has a plan, but she definitely knows what she wants and she doesn’t give up until she gets it!

In the Moves Management cycle, stewardship is often the forgotten link. Sufficient stewardship should take place before you ask for another gift.

Bottom line: Day-to-day challenges in your job will crop up to threaten your ability to follow-through on your plans for both cultivation and stewardship. Take a hint from Maya and make these activities a priority. As you know, loyal donors are the backbone of your fundraising structure and key to your success.

What are your suggestions for sticking with cultivation and stewardship plans? 

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