Donor Cultivation: Personal and Donor-Centered


Donor cultivation is all about the donor! During cultivation you’re building a relationship with your donor as he or she gets to know about the mission and work of your organization. At its best, donor cultivation is an enjoyable, gradual, thought-provoking process for everyone involved.

Incorporating cultivation into your overall fundraising cycle is one key to donor engagement. The more you can create a personal plan for each donor, the better—especially for your major gift prospects and donors. Making cultivation plans a habit and a tool in your development shop can push your major gifts and your overall fundraising program to new heights. Three considerations:

1. One size does not fit all

There are “mass cultivation” opportunities, similar to mass communications, where everyone receives the same message. Resist the temptation to treat all of your donors the same. It won’t serve you well in the long run, especially with major supporters who are used to (and may expect) a personal approach.

Yes, you can still do an e-newsletter but be sure to add extra touch points for your major donors. Tailored cultivation plans are at the heart of donor-centered fundraising.

2. Good customer service matters (and is donor-centered)

Nowhere else in the development profession are you closer to the sales and customer service industries than when you’re working in major gifts. According to Forbes, great customer service means, “do unto your customers (donors) as you want to be treated when you’re a customer (donor).” Does it get any more donor-centered than this?

Think about your best experiences as a customer. Didn’t it feel good when the people trying to help actually listened to you, remembered details about you and suggested solutions that made sense for you?

You want your major donors to have a similar experience when they interact with you. It really drills down to biology. As humans, we all have a desire to be known as individuals and to connect with other individuals. Make sure your donors know that you know them as individuals, not as one of the masses.

3. Committing ideas to paper turns them into action

By charting your “moves” with a donor on paper (or electronically), you can ensure each move builds on the one before and that they happen in the right order. Instead of cultivating your donors haphazardly or when you can find the time – which may not happen! – build the plan strategically and document the steps you’ll take with each donor. A written plan boosts the likelihood that it will actually get done.

Tip: This is a fantastic place to involve your major gifts committee. It’s great to have others to help strategize touch points for each donor.

Added bonus: Committing your great ideas to paper means you don’t have to store them all in your head!

If you’re convinced that individualized cultivation plans are a critical part of your major gifts toolbox, tune in next week when I’ll outline what info to include in your plan.

What advice do you have about donor cultivation plans? Please share in the Comments box below. Your fellow fundraisers and I thank you!

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