Your #1 Best Shot at Engaging Your Board in Donor Cultivation

Image: Chaiwat at

Image: Chaiwat at

It’s generally accepted that nonprofit board members “should” help with fundraising. And, a great way for them to help is during donor cultivation. After all, of the four stages in the fundraising cycle—identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship—cultivation can be the most fun. 

So why aren’t more of your board members jumping on the bandwagon?

Very simply … they may not know what donor cultivation means or how to do it. 

Let’s take a step back... 

It’s quite possible your board members have no idea how to help with fundraising—much less donor cultivation. Most board members know less than they let on about fundraising. Think about it – they haven’t been trained to do fundraising and they spend the majority of their working hours in a totally different field. 

Add to this the fact that your board may not even admit their lack of understanding. After all, there’s a pesky misconception that if you’re on a board, you know what you’re doing. 

They don’t want to be the one fessing up to a lack of knowledge in the area of fundraising. This creates a vicious cycle of not understanding, feeling embarrassed to ask questions, and ultimately avoiding fundraising altogether.

Lucky for you there’s an easy way out of this mess – your #1 best shot! You can proactively educate your board about how fundraising works and, specifically what donor cultivation is - and what it is not. Don’t wait for them to ask, just get the information out there. 

At its most basic, donor cultivation = building a relationship with your donor. Pretty simple.

For example, donor cultivation is:

  • friend-raising, as opposed to fundraising
  • attending a donor event with your board member hat (or nametag) on
  • chatting with donors about why you serve
  • sending a personal thank-you note to a donor for something other than a gift (a meeting, a referral, an idea)
  • making a thank-you call to a donor
  • forwarding a relevant article or news item to a donor
  • introducing your organization’s development director to a prospective donor you know
  • asking a donor’s opinion or for their advice (How are we doing? What’s our reputation in the community?)

Just as important, donor cultivation is not:

  • asking for money
  • asking for money
  • asking for money
  • being in the room when someone else is asking for money

(You get the idea.)

I’m betting that when your board members realize that donor cultivation is the fun part of fundraising, and does not involve asking people for money, they’ll be much more wiling to engage. Good luck and go get ‘em!

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

What suggestions do you have for engaging your board in donor cultivation? Please share in the Comments box below. Thanks!