Donor Cultivation: 4 More Ways to Connect with Donors

Photo courtesy of stockimages at

Photo courtesy of stockimages at

When I was a frontline fundraiser, I was always looking for ways to connect with my organizations’ donors. Building on last week’s post, 5 Winning Touch Points, here are 4 more suggestions for ways you can connect with your prospects and donors.

Behind the Scenes Tour

Just like the “Work With Us” suggestion in last week’s post, behind-the-scenes tours of your organization allow a donor to EXPERIENCE your impact. It’s more showing, less telling. Make sure to show donors the key spaces in your building that make your work possible – the commercial kitchen if you provide food to the homeless, the performance hall and backstage areas if you are an theater company.

Pepper the tour with short conversations with other staff and/or constituents. For example, arrange for your donor to meet a teacher or program director, some students or clients, or others delivering or being served by your mission. Also, allow for Q&A time between your donors and the staff/constituents. Of course, you’ll want to prep these internal folks beforehand so they have some context for the donor visit. You may even script some questions to ask them to get the conversation rolling.

Progress Report Visit

Like the “thank-you visit” in last week’s post, a progress report helps you further cultivate a donor who has already given by sharing with them the impact of their gift. Lots of the ideas outlined above hold true for this type of visit too, depending on the nature of the donor’s support.

It’s generally good to spice things up by ensuring your donors see and hear from people other than you. Be sure to balance your report with hard numbers and statistics as well as human stories. Compelling stories showing your impact are very memorable for your donors, much more so than a long list of stats!

Board Member Dinner

If your board members are willing to host these events in their homes, the dinners can be both mission- and cost-effective. Your board members may have professional, social or personal ties to your donors – and peer-to-peer cultivation is often the best there is. It’s great to have your executive director there, too, perhaps providing a short insider briefing on the state of the organization.

I also recommend having another development staff member attend (in addition to the ED) to capture intelligence on how the evening goes. You’ll want to note next steps that come out of the diner, at the very least. A Development Director is a logical attendee to fill this role. Otherwise, consider preparing your ED for double-duty.

Meet our Friend, Your Peer

Speaking of peer-to-peer fundraising, too often, we think only of economic peers as our potential donors. I like this story from Andy Robinson about an executive director who positioned herself as a peer to her donors through their shared passion for the organization.

Having an enthusiastic acquaintance in the room – someone already involved in your organization whom the donor already knows – can be powerful because you are building off a relationship of trust and respect that already exists. Plus, your donor gets to hear someone other than you describe the organization’s case for support and their personal connection to it. You can arrange a coffee or lunch meeting around this approach, or weave it into any of the other “moves” we’ve been talking about.

We’d love to hear about your best cultivation steps with donors, and who was in the room to make them happen. Please share in the comments box below.

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