Cultivating Major Donors

Sections of this topic

    There are two categories of donor cultivation: the education about and the involvement in the programs/activities of the NPO … leading up to the solicitation and obtaining of the first major gift from non-donors; and, the ongoing education, involvement and recognition of prior donors leading up to their next major gift.

    But, before you can begin the cultivation of a potential donor, you have to know how s/he would prefer to be cultivated.

    Cultivation is not a “standard” process. Cultivation is, more than anything else, communicating to the prospect how strongly the “cultivator” feels about his/her involvement with the NPO and how rewarding that involvement is-and-has-been for him/her.

    The desired result of communicating those feelings to a prospect is to have him/her want to experience the same feelings – regarding the organization’s mission and programs and the satisfaction at being recognized for his/her involvement.

    Cultivation is also a “bonding” process, whereby the prospective major donor comes to feel a degree of ownership in the NPO and its programs/activities.

    The ideal series of circumstances will move a prospect to a point, when asked to write the (big) check, where s/he will respond, “Of course, what took you so long to ask.”

    There’s an old saying in fundraising: “The ‘Thank-You’ is the first step in cultivating a donor toward his/her next gift.” But, that only works if a donor is thanked/recognized in the manner that satisfies his/her needs.

    [A standard “fits-all” recognition program cannot satisfy the needs of every (potential) major donor. Major Gifts fundraising and donor recognition are, after all, about the needs of the donor, not the needs of the NPO.]

    Have a comment or a question about starting, evaluating or expanding your fundraising program? With over 30 years of counseling in major gifts, capital campaigns, bequest programs and the planning studies to precede these three, I’ll be pleased to answer your questions. Contact me at
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