6 Steps to Planning Your First Fundraising Cultivation Event
A fundraising cultivation event is great way to begin to qualify prospective donor relationships and deepen already existing donor relationships. Cultivation events should be a part of any individual giving.
However, most nonprofits when first getting started with a major gift program often don't know where to begin. And, so don't begin at all leaving potential relationships left undeveloped.
The following are some steps that you can take to begin hosting cultivation events that build friends for your organization.
1. Determine who is able to host such an event (e.g. board member, volunteer, current major donor) on your behalf, preferably in their home or another intimate gathering spot.
2. Once you have secured a host and a location, work with the host to help them develop an invitation list. Yes, the idea of the even as host is that they are willing to connect with and invite their networks.
3. Once you have worked with the host to help them develop their guest list, then decide whom you may want to invite as well. First, determine who is your audience for this event. Is it prospective donors only? Is it current major donors? Or is it foundation staff? Or a combination of two or all three?
Surely, the criteria to determine who makes this list is based on 1) whom would you like to deepen your already existing relationship with and 2) who would you like to develop a relationship with. Second, think about location. Is this cultivation event in a certain geographic region or part of a state. What donors and/or prospective donors are located in that general geographic area that you can invite.
Cultivation events should not be treated as an "Open House." They are not an invite all and let's see who attends functions. They need to be used strategically with the above two aims in mind. Deepen and develop relationships.
4. Develop an invitation for the event to be used. The question that arises: Should it be print or should it be electronic? Well, the answer is, it depends. It depends not on a cost factor, but more on the demographics of who your intended audience is and how they prefer to communicate. Some donors may respond better to a personal email from the host while others will prefer a printed invitation or handwritten notecard. Do your research, know who your donors are and what communication preferences they have.
5. Once the invitations have gone out, develop event logistics regarding food and drinks and then develop a program for the evening. Keep the program short but mission-focused. If you can provide some form of emotional testimonial, even better. And, don't let folks leave empty-handed. Provide them with some type of information about your organization and a simple "call-to-action," whether it is to make a small in-kind donation, volunteer opportunities or something else.
6. Follow-up the invitations with personal outreach. If you haven't received an RSVP, then it is time to get on the telephone and make some phone calls. Let's face it, your event is probably not top of mind for the donor, so a quick call to find out if they received the invitation and will they be attending is all that is needed to really boost your response rate. Don't leave it to chance or you will have a poorly attended cultivation event.
Don't let inertia get the best of you. These are the simple, easy steps that you need to take to begin the process of organizing your first cultivation event. Events such as these are more than pick a place and send a blast out. You need to take the time and steps to think strategically about each aspect of its planning and then commit to doing the follow-up.
Robin Cabral is “Hire a CFRE!” the one and only outsourced development professional with close to 25 years experience providing value-added consulting services with razor-sharp monthly result objectives and benchmarked deliverables.
She works with mid-sized nonprofits that want to position themselves to build capacity and generate more fundraising prospects, better donor relationships, and bigger fundraising dollars. She specializes in providing outsourced, interim development services and assisting smaller organizations in their first campaigns (annual, capital, and endowment).
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