Every Donor Deserves the Best

Ultimately, you want donors to make multi-year commitments, increase their commitments every year, recruit new donors, refer clients, advocate on behalf of your nonprofit, mission, and clients, and leave legacy gifts.  You can have what you want but only if you are patient.

Often a potential donor shows an interest in some minor activity.  There is a temptation to try to redirect the interest to the area of greatest need.  Most of the time if you give in to the temptation you will receive token support if you receive any support.  It is early in the relationship.  Let the donor give where their hearts leads them.  In the short term, your nonprofit is better off with a donor who is passionate about the herb garden in the back corner of the property than someone who is half-heartedly supporting your main activity.  As the relationship develops, you will have many opportunities to cultivate their interest in other areas.  However, you may never develop their passion for the area of greatest need.

If the donor was one of the important people in town who showed an interest in an obscure area of your nonprofit, you would happily accept his or her support.  It is hard to say that your fundraising is donor driven when it depends on who the donor is rather than what interests them.

You gladly do everything possible to cultivate an important person.  The important person would receive emails, phone calls, gentle cultivation, special invitations, private meetings with senior members of the staff and board, as well as other perks.  All of that would be done in hopes that they would contribute in significant ways.

Based upon recent census data, about 10% of the US households have a net worth of $1 million.  Most of your donors and prospective donors are above the poverty level (14%).  About 12% (1 in every 8) of your current and potential donors, after excluding those below the poverty line, could be high-value donors if carefully cultivated.  Many of those who are short of the high-net-worth mark today are striving to be above it in the future.  Careful cultivation has the potential to open a very valuable door.

It makes sense that every potential donor should be treated like a VIP.  If they are over the million-dollar mark, you want them.  If they are going to be over the mark in the future, you want to capture them before someone else does.  Since it is very difficult to know who is or will be in that elite group, it makes sense to treat everyone like millionaires.

Cultivation is easy.  In its simplest form, cultivation is treating donors and prospective donors like important people.  You have the potential and the know-how to be a great cultivator.

Next Step:

Determine how you would treat the most important person in your town if they showed an interest in your nonprofit, mission, or clients

Use that as your model for how you will treat every donor

Use the growing number of engaged donors as the success measure for your cultivation process

Focusing on donor cultivation rather than donor generosity, dollars raised, or donor loyalty places the emphasis on being donor centric.  It also requires that your board finance committee and fundraising committee are willing to trust the donors to provide the support your nonprofit needs.

Trusting the donors may seem like a leap of faith.  However, your nonprofit has already taken that leap.  The future of your nonprofit depends on your donors.  They will give what they want, when they want.  Cultivating donors is connecting their hearts to what they care about.  When their hearts are connected, your nonprofit’s sustainability and the sustainability of your funding stream will be based upon their commitment.  With their commitment, your nonprofit’s future is more secure.

Take It Further:

Compare the support your nonprofit receives from its engaged donors with its unengaged or minimally engaged donors so your board can see the value of engaged donors

Read more about how to treat donors here


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