19 Ideas on How to Cultivate Your Donors
If there is one area of "moves management" that never has sat well with me, it’s the word "stewardship." Stewardship is what you are supposed to do with donors after they give you gifts. The reason I don’t like it is that it conveys more of a passive approach to the relationship with your donor.
For instance, I’ve been working with a major gifts officer (MGO), who told me, “Oh, that donor is in stewardship mode right now, so I don’t have to worry about them." Huh? Yes, you do. If you’re ever going to ask for another gift, your approach with that donor needs to be strategic, focused and donor-centered.
I like to say that you are always in a cultivation mode with your donors. You always are trying to build and deepen relationships, and provide opportunities for your donors to invest in your mission. There really is no time to be passive, especially just after the donor has given you a great gift.
So, to kick off this week, let's celebrate the fact that we get to do this great work called fundraising. Here are 19 ideas for how you can cultivate your donors:
- Research each of your donors and find something unique about them.
- Update all your communication with donors into your donor data system to allow you to know what you’ve done with each donor.
- Call three of your donors every day just to thank them for supporting the mission.
- Write five handwritten thank-you notes to donors on your case-load every day.
- Invite some of your donors to see your programs firsthand.
- Ask a donor to help you solve a problem.
- Know your donors' hobbies and use that knowledge to send the donors information about that hobby, telling them that you are thinking of them.
- Take your donor to a sporting or cultural event that you have tickets for.
- Figure out ways to get donors to see your mission and arrange for them to have a vacation.
- Help your donors pass their giving legacies on to their children by recommending ways to talk to their children about giving and recommending a good consultant to advise the family about multigenerational giving.
- Ask a few of your donors to talk to your board about why they give and why they love the organization.
- In addition, ask your donors to give your executive director and board some solid critique of the organization and how it could be better.
- Look for connections in your donor portfolio so you can introduce donors to one another. Help your donors network with one another.
- Think of ways to foster business relationships between your donors and arrange for meetings.
- Have the CEO or executive director call each one of your tier-A donors at least once a year to thank them for giving.
- If you have a relationship with a celebrity or VIP, have that person make a call to your top 10 donors or write special notes thanking them for being involved in your organization.
- Look for ways to honor your donors publicly (provided they will like it) in front of their peers and publicize it.
- Always acknowledge milestones in your donors' lives.
- Arrange for a program person to call your donors and give them a firsthand account of the impact they are making on that program. Tell the donors they are heroes.
There you go—19 ideas on how to cultivate your donors proactively so that you will continue to foster and deepen the relationships with them. With 150 donors on your caseload, there is no time to sit back and be passive. Hopefully these 19 ideas will spark others as well.
Please feel free to share more cultivation ideas with the passionate giving community!
Jeff Schreifels is the principal owner of Veritus Group — an agency that partners with nonprofits to create, build and manage mid-level fundraising, major gifts and planned giving programs. In his 32-plus year career, Jeff has worked with hundreds of nonprofits, helping to raise more than $400 million in revenue.