Tips for Cultivating Donors

On February 27, 2008, TSNE hosted the fund-raising training, “Cultivating Your Organization’s Donor Base,” presented by leading fund development consultant Kristi Scarpone. Also sharing fund-raising tips in the filled-to-capacity workshop was Lou Pollock, founder of c3net, a web-based system that helps nonprofits manage constituents, track donations, generate mailings and coordinate events. One lucky attendee was chosen to receive a free one-year subscription to c3net.

On February 27, 2008, TSNE hosted the fund-raising training, “Cultivating Your Organization’s Donor Base,” presented by leading fund development consultant Kristi Scarpone. Also sharing fund-raising tips in the filled-to-capacity workshop was Lou Pollock, founder of c3net, a web-based system that helps nonprofits manage constituents, track donations, generate mailings and coordinate events. One lucky attendee was chosen to receive a free one-year subscription to c3net.

According to Scarpone, donor cultivation, the intersection of programmatic work and development, is the most overlooked and most important component of fundraising. It is vital for all donors and especially for those most involved and committed.

A Comprehensive Plan

Scarpone’s goal for the training session was for everyone to walk away with a thorough understanding of the art of cultivation and a comprehensive cultivation plan.

“Cultivation is the practice of connecting your donors in a meaningful way to their financial investment in your nonprofit organization,” explains Scarpone. “Your job in the cultivation process is to match your donors with specific programs, services, research or other areas of your work that personally resonate with them.”

An Investment in Success

You want to help donors understand that they are making an investment in your organization. You want to reconnect them to the idea that they are investors with a stake in the success of your nonprofit organization and not just people giving money.

In order to do this effectively, you need to identify approximately how many donors your nonprofit organization has in a number of key categories. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Major donors $1,000 and higher (list separately current, lapsed and prospective)
  • Capital, endowment or other special gift donors
  • Corporate donors
  • Individual donors (stratified levels $500-999, $250-499, $100-249, $50-99, other)
  • Other (special event donors, online giving, other appeals)
  • Volunteers including board, committees, etc…

Once you have identified your donors’ relationship with your organization, you are ready to develop the annual cultivation plan for each segmented donor group – to stay in touch with them and keep them aware of your accomplishments and challenges. You will want to have at least one to two personal contacts with top donors and should have 5 to 7 contacts through newsletters, e-Alerts, annual report, etc… with all donors.

At the heart of those communications?

  • Ways that you are utilizing your programming to keep donors connected to your mission
  • A clear message about your nonprofit organization’s vision for the future

With your stratified donor lists:

  • List how and when you’re in communication with each donor group throughout the calendar year. This includes cultivation and solicitation (actually asking for donations), the medium being used and how the contacts are being captured.
  • Overlay your cultivation strategy with your events and programmatic activities. Are there opportunities to dovetail meaningful cultivation contacts with existing events and programs?
  • Look at who your “cultivation partners” are within your organization. These should include board, staff beyond fundraising staff, and specific, defined roles for each.

Making Contact

So, you are almost ready to begin your personal calls and meetings. But before you do, reflect on your own commitment to the nonprofit, so you can better elicit that of your donors. Remember, don’t take anything personally, and expect distractions. Remember that even a friendly voicemail message is a cultivation contact, so be concise when leaving messages. Be generous and gracious.

Remember Always ...

Scarpone left her workshop attendees – and leaves us all – with the understanding that cultivation is reconnecting people with their financial investment in your organization’s work. So be sure to:

  • Create donor loyalty with human to human contact.
  • Shift your donor practices to reflect the new paradigm.
  • Tap into your donors’ communication preferences and self-interest.
  • Capture the information to build a complete donor profile for future uses.

Learn more about Kristi Scarpone and services available to nonprofits through Scarpone Associates. Visit c3net to learn more about founder Lou Pollock and his commitment to providing web-based products to help nonprofits work more effectively with donors and other stakeholders.



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