When Cultivation Stalls: 3 Tips for Sparking Action

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Next step?” This is a phrase I often see written in donor cultivation plans—including my own! You may be waiting to see how things go with a donor in the near term before scheduling a series of cultivation activities down the line.

Or, you may be stalled. We all sometimes hit an impasse when the best next step in building a relationship with a donor is simply not clear.

When you find yourself stuck, try one of these 3 easy actions to spark activity with your donor and get things moving in the right direction again:

Change it up.

Think back on your recent interactions with this donor. When did you last see her? In what context? What was her role in the conversation? What was yours? Now reverse course by doing a 180.

If you did most of the talking the last few times you saw her (and this is common for us talkative development folks), try listening next time. Come to your next meeting prepared only with open-ended questions – and no talking points about your organization. And see what happens.

Think, too, about the nature of your interactions with her thus far. Have you mostly done the common touches—sending her a newsletter or annual report, making brief, general small talk at events?

Could you do something more personal next time? Perhaps send her a pertinent article? Drop off a mug from her favorite coffee shop? The goal is to do something unexpected that is thoughtful and gets her attention.

Ask for advice.

You’ve heard about asking for advice as a cultivation tactic. Here is another spin on this logic.

Think about other connections you and this donor have in common. Is she connected to one of your board members? Another loyal donor? A volunteer? Then, ask your board member, loyal donor or volunteer for advice on how to re-ignite the relationship.

All kinds of good results can come from this simple act. You will get some valuable insight and suggestions. You might get an offer to help with this donor. And you will have cultivated the advice giver(s) just by asking for their help—all at the same time!

Unveil a Challenge Gift.

This tactic can work well for donors who are stalled at the stage right before the Ask. If you think your donor or prospect is ready to give, but you’ve been struggling with when and how to ask, sharing a challenge gift opportunity could be just the ticket.

I admit this one is not exactly an “easy” action—and may not work for all organizations. Most of us don’t have challenge gift offers just laying around waiting to be launched. But if you can wrangle one, helping an organization meet a challenge and unlock additional funding is just the right incentive for some on-the-fence donors.

What are your thoughts on moving forward a stalled cultivation strategy? Please share your thoughts, tips and advice in the Comments box below!

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