It Is Your Choice

Fundraising is about the future of your nonprofit rather than meeting the next 12-month-income goal.  There are those who will tell you that if this year’s goal is missed, your doors will close.  In most cases, that is an overstatement.  Certainly, missing the goals would be uncomfortable but it usually takes several years of missing a goal by a significant margin before a nonprofit is in crisis.  Therefore, your nonprofit probably could afford to fall short of the next 12-month goal if it were for a good reason.

Better yet, there is a chance that you could exceed your 12-month goal. Imagine that Ms. Donor usually gives your nonprofit $1,000 on January 2 each year.  It would probably be worth it to defer collecting her gift until nine months later if you thought you could collect an extra $100 by waiting.  The process involves risk and it would mean that finances would be tighter than usual for several months but when you look at the big picture, it is better to have $1,100 than $1,000.  Do things right and you might have the $1,100.

Try this experiment.   Select a representative 10% that gives your nonprofit a dependable gift every year.  Instead of soliciting their gifts at the usual time, start now with a cultivation program tailored for each of those individual giving units (individual, family, business, club or whatever the unit might be).  Defer asking the unit to give until you have cultivated their interest, engagement, and enthusiasm.  Then connect the unit to a specific client-centric program or activity that resonates with the unit and invite the unit to participate in the activity.  Help the donor see how their gifts have changed lives.  After making the connection, give the unit the opportunity to provide support for the program or activity.  Compare the unit’s annual giving with the previous year’s giving.

The results will probably justify the effort.  If so, next year expend the program to include 40% of your donor base.  If you are still happy with the results, in the third year include the rest of your donor base.

Next Step:

Try the experiment suggested above

Select several current or planned activities that you know will be important to the selected donors

Match the selected donors with the appropriate activities and cultivate the donors’ interests

Measure the change in giving after one year

Develop a process for rolling out the cultivation to the rest of your donors

One of the success measures for this endeavor should be the number of new donors referred by your current donors.  Having new donors is important to the sustainability of your mission and your funding stream.  New donors are also an important indication of how well you are cultivating your current donors.  Passionate donors want others to support their favorite mission. You know you have a well-cultivated donor when they introduce prospective donors to you.

The future of your nonprofit depends more on how well your donors are cultivated than on reaching this year’s goal.

Take It Further:

Have a goal of doubling every donor’s giving every 10 years (this goal will focus your cultivation process on increasing donor connectedness, generosity, and loyalty)

Use this opportunity to demonstrate to your board that donor cultivation is more important than dollars raised


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