How to Cultivate the Best Donors

Every nonprofit has a few great donors.

Let us start by defining who these great donors are. We think someone is a great donor if their annual gift places them in the top 10% of all your donors for 3 or more years.

Cultivation is the way to keep the great donors you have and add to the pool of great donors. Cultivation is a very personal process. We all know this from our own personal relationships. With some people if you text, call, or email them once a month, the relationship remains strong for years. With others, a frequent face-to-face encounter works.

Most of us learn how to cultivate each friend by trial and error. If you notice the person pushing back, you change the process or frequency of contact or both.

With donors, it is a little easier. One can sit down with the donor and ask questions like:

How many other organizations do you support?

What types of organizations are they?

What are the things they do to keep in touch with you that you appreciate?

What are examples of things you wish they would stop doing?

What are the things you wish they were doing?

It is more comfortable for people to tell you about their experiences with others than make suggestions. It helps them avoid the feeling they are criticizing the person they are talking to.

Some of their suggestions may be impractical for your organization. As example, they may send the donor a picture of one of their client each year. However, for confidentiality reasons you may be unable to do that. So think of a follow-up question(s) to explore what you could do (office tour, give them an opportunity to ride along while volunteers pass out food, attend a presentation by a staff member about their day, or something else that provides them with a direct connection with the mission).

Regardless of what someone else is doing, you can do something similar. It may take a few questions to discover it, but you can find it. In addition, because you are talking with the donor and they are helping design what you are going to do, whatever you do will be better than the example.

Next Step:

Identify the top 10% of your donor base

Meet with each of the top 10% one-on-one

Develop a customized program of cultivation for each of the top 10%

Use the same process to cultivate the next tier of givers so that they become part of the top 10%

It is work. For most nonprofits, it is more than worth the effort. The top 20% probably provide 50% or more of your donor income. If the cultivation efforts prevent any losses and increases giving, how much will that increase next year’s income? What new programs can you offer your clients with the extra income?

A nonprofit’s sustainability depends in part on having a sustainable funding stream. Is there a better way to increase the sustainability of your funding steam than to cultivate you best donors?

As always, contact Mission Enablers if you want help. We use a special process that offers a guarantee. For more information about our process and guarantee, you can click here.

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1 comment to How to Cultivate the Best Donors

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