Cultivate, cultivate, cultivate. The way we talk about donors sometimes makes me think that we are in relationships. And, in a sense, I guess we are.
Cultivation, what is it?
Well for one, it’s about learning more about a donor and his or her interests and how our cause’s mission intersects with their personal passions.
It is not about educating the donor on what our cause does and how they can get involved. It is not sales or persuasion. It is more about matchmaking. You know, just like in “real life” relationships. It is about learning what motivates them to give and why. Learning about what stirs their soul and makes them feel good.
As with all relationships in life, listening is paramount. We must listen authentically to our donors and not have a hidden agenda. You remember those first days of dating when you hinged on every word of your love? It is the same thing. Ask questions and then listen intently.
For me when I was doing major gift work, I made it an aim to get to know something new about each donor every time I visited with them. I developed long-standing relationships that were genuine and had the organization at its deepest heart.
I have spent countless hours sitting in donor’s homes learning about their lives both big and small. I have had lunch served to me by famous people. I have spent time in a donor’s office getting to know how they got involved and what keeps them involved. I have had donors treat me like family, insisting that I stay for dinner – they made it special just for me.
Each donor will want or necessitate different types and levels of cultivation. Some may want a tour of the facility, and others will want to meet with staff, serve on a board or committee, attend events, or be an advisor.
Most importantly, it is the donor that directs the relationship. The time spent together getting to know each other. This time is set by what makes the donor feel most comfortable.
I never felt as if I could rush this relationship, nor should you. Like all relationships, let it evolve organically over time and it will bear fruit, both for the organization, for yourself and the donor. In fact, the gift will be a transformative moment.
Share with me in the comments below your most poignant donor cultivation story.