To get insights into how to cultivate a donor, the place to start is to look at what motivates you personally as a donor. Here is a simple but powerful exercise. Make a list of the organizations you give money to. Not just the obvious one or two, but go a little deeper. Come up with at least five. Next, take the time to answer each of the following questions for each contribution you make.
What patterns or trends do you notice in your giving? For example:
1. For how many years have you been giving to the same organizations? Have you increased your giving over the years? What, if anything, has the organization done along the way that has inspired you to give more?
2. Are you a loyal or a fickle donor? Or a little of both? Do you give faithfully to your old standby favorites? Do you intersperse them with new ones? If so, what does it take to become a new recipient of your gift?
3. Is there any correlation between the amount of your time and money you give to an organization? Do you feel differently about giving money to the places where you also volunteer in some way?
4. What kind of thanks do you receive? Are you thanked more or less than you would like? Does it feel personal enough? Does it seem like the organization knows you or wants to know you better?
5. Is your name prominently displayed in places that matter to you? On plaques, or in annual reports. Though this may not seem like it matters to you, notice your reaction should your name be inadvertently omitted.
6. In terms of ongoing connection, is there more each organization could be doing? Do they invite you to other events throughout the year? Do you feel sufficiently connected to their mission? If it’s a national organization, are you part of a larger national “society” or group recognition program?
7. What more would it take for them to receive a larger gift from you? More information, more direct contact, more recognition? Maybe just a phone call?
Notice what makes you tick when it comes to giving away your money.
Notice what more an organization could have done to get to know you and your passion for their work. Often just a phone call or a personal invitation to a meeting or program of interest will make a big difference. Perhaps you’ve already done that with some of your favorite organizations and now you need something more. Perhaps they’ve missed your cues and their attempts to “cultivate” you feel too heavy-handed.
As you begin the cultivation process with each donor, remember, first and foremost, that you are a donor. Your name is on a list at each of these nonprofit organizations. Someone within those organizations may be trying to “cultivate” you right now!
Rather than girding yourself for approaching hostile strangers to awkwardly get to know them so that you can ultimately convince them to part with their precious money, think of approaching them as you would want to be approached—as real human being with concerns, opinions, a busy life, and a commitment to making the world a better place.
It will make your fundraising efforts easier and more natural. Happy cultivating!