What Do a Poster, Doggie Treats and Flowers Have in Common?

Thanks again to our friend Ashley in Loveland, Colorado for sending this question:

“How do you cultivate donors who are anonymous and very private? There are several donors to our nonprofit who are longtime supporters, yet they won’t return my calls and don’t seem to want personalized contact.”

Image: Photokanok at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Photokanok at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Great question and one faced by many fundraisers. Truth is, some donors just flat out do not want to meet. If you’ve given it your best shot, tried the tips suggested here, including being appropriately persistent, and you still don’t have a meeting on the calendar, it’s time to get creative. 

A Poster

One of my former nonprofits, which provides programs for girls with challenged backgrounds, had a donor just like this. “Nancy” was one of our biggest supporters. We suspected that Nancy had the capacity for larger gifts, and might be inspired to support our programs at a higher level, if only we could meet with her to share how her gifts were making an impact!

Unfortunately, Nancy declined our invitations to meet, and was difficult to reach even by phone. After repeated calls and emails, we invited the girls who benefitted from our programs to create a thank you poster for Nancy. The poster turned out fabulous, with lots of colors, drawings (as only kids can do!), and a slew of genuine thank you messages. 

We wrapped up the poster and put it in the mail. Low and behold, just days later Nancy’s assistant called to share that Nancy loved the poster so much it was now hanging in her office. In December of that year, we received a check for twice the amount of Nancy’s previous year-end gifts. Wow!

Doggie Treats

At another nonprofit, the development director struggled to meet in person with a donor. The development director knew that the donor “Sam” was a huge dog lover and Sam’s dog Rowdy had recently undergone surgery. 

The development staff created a doggie “gift basket” containing doggie treats and dog toys and dropped it off on Sam’s front porch with a get well card signed by the entire nonprofit staff. The following week, the development office received a thank you card from Sam and Rowdy with a donation check enclosed. 


If you’re not ready for that level of personalization, something as simple as delivering flowers to a donor who prefers not to meet in person is a thoughtful gesture. Have them delivered to your donors’ home or office or you can drop them off yourself. Be sure to include a handwritten note or a card created by your clients (if appropriate).  

The key is to connect with your donor in a way that feels special to them, given that one-size-does-not-fit-all when it comes to donor cultivation and stewardship. Still feeling stuck? Check out these creative ideas on Pinterest

Bottom line: If your donor prefers not to meet in person, you can still build your relationship, just not in the conventional way. Have fun thinking of CREATIVE ways to connect!

Have you tried a special or unusual cultivation idea? Share your story in the Comments box below.

Special gift for you:  My step-by-step guide, Conquer Your Fear of Asking for Money, is available here (click).