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Cultivation Events

The focus of a nonprofit’s fundraising event is usually the money raised.  Of course, the money is important.  It pays the bills and ensures the annual income goal will be met.  However, your mission is the reason that your nonprofit exists.

If the mission is the reason for existence, it makes sense for the mission to be the focus of every activity.  When the mission is the focus, many activities can become donor cultivation events.

The most effective donor cultivation events are the things you are already doing like celebrations of awards (your nonprofit receives, your staff receives, your clients receive, etc.), anniversaries, program graduation, volunteer recognition, and program expansion.  Those events highlight your mission’s, clients’, and nonprofit’s accomplishments.  The events are an opportunity to remind everyone, and especially donors, that your mission is effective and does fulfill its promise to the community.  It is also an opportunity to thank donors for making the accomplishment possible.

It is unnecessary to add events.  Successful and sustainable nonprofits are already celebrating many noteworthy activities.

If you simply invite your donors and other stakeholders to attend, most of the work is done.  The invitation should be personal rather than an email blast or newsletter item.  It should make the donor feel like you want them at the event rather than want just anyone at the event.

At the start of the event, someone should talk about how the mission and the supporters of the mission laid the foundation for the event.  That will thank the donors and other stakeholders without explicitly saying “Thank You”. Keeping the thank you subtle keeps the focus on the reason for the event. The only other step is to have staff and board members talk with the donors and ensure that each donor feels their contribution is appreciated and important.  Discussions about money, the next gift, or how the donor can help in the future are best left for private one-on-one settings.

Some of the events will be thinly attended.  Just inviting the donors reminds them that they are part of the process.  When they realize that it is never about money, they will begin to understand how much you value them for who they are rather than the size of their gift.

In some cases, it will be impossible to provide much notice because of the nature of the event.  Even so, donors will ask for more notification so they can attend future events.  It is important to note their interest even when they are unable to attend.  Knowing which events interest them will help you better understand their emotional connection to your mission.  You can use that information to help refine your next one-on-one meeting with the donor.

Next Step:

Review your events and activities looking for ways to make them more mission focused

Invite donors and other stakeholders to mission-centric events

Ensure the donors who attend understand that their support enabled something important to happen

Donor cultivation events help increase the sustainability of your donors’ relationships with your mission.  As the sustainability of your donor’s relationships increases, it will increase the sustainability of your mission and your funding stream.  As the sustainability of the funding stream increases, your fundraising culture will shift to being more about the donors and less about your donors’ money.  At the same time, money will become more abundant.

The goal of your donor cultivation events is for the donors to leave feeling that their contribution enabled something important to happen.

Take It Further:

Ask your board to measure fundraising success based upon the sustainability of the donor’s relationship with your nonprofit (loyalty) and the growing generosity of the current donors

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