Tangible Donor Cultivation

So how do we really treat donors differently? What does it really mean? What does “Donor-centric” actually look like? It is one thing to talk about new ideas and a totally different thing to have tangible ways of carrying them out. I think that a major key to All Donors as Major Donors is to remember, “people not process.” We cannot forget that our systems can only be secondary to the people that are a part of them. Many donors don’t care about donor lists, quarterly coffee visits, and an annual solicitation. But some do so we should adapt our processes accordingly. I’ve received a bunch of great ideas from you and from a few individuals on LinkedIn. Here are a few tangible suggestions. Please add your own ideas & experiences as a comment below

  • Aubrey suggests that when a donor calls take an extra couple minute to actually talk to them and to make sure you thank them for their continued support.
  • A few ideas from Amy J. Good, a Nonprofit Management grad student at, Regis University, “Personal invitations/tickets to special events; Let them know you saw an article in the newspaper about them; Phone call from a board member for no other reason but to thank the donor for their gift.”
  • Paul Cusimano says, “People cannot be thanked enough. Every step of the way, let them know you are there…don’t forget about people.”
  • Marcus Fish recommends, “doing a bit of research about each donor/prospect…check [their] files/database, google their name, and look at where they live.”
  • “Send holiday photo cards with pictures of some of our kids engaged in programs, invitations to tour the school, and I always make a phone call to donors on the same day we receive a major gift from them.” Jim Price, Executive Director, The Child’s Primary School
  • “Include a series of check boxes on direct mail reply cards that let donors choose how often they hear from me. The boxes would be things like ‘Please ask me for a gift only once a year’ or ‘Please ask me for a gift only during the Holidays’. This let the donor decide how often they wanted to receive mailings from me, and subsequently, my response rates went up while my expenses went down. And my donors were happy.” Sandy Rees
  • “A handcrafted thank-you card from an actual service recipient. Of course, this isn’t always plausible; but the underlying theme is right on. Figure out a way to really connect a constituent, funder or supporter with the people they’re actually helping, and they’ll stay with you forever.” Trevor Scheetz, Program Coordinator at Business Volunteers Unlimited
  • “Let your donors know exactly where their gifts went. Whether you do it via an annual report, a special end-of-year thank you to all donors, or on your website, make sure people know that even the smallest gift made a difference.” Dana Camacho, Development Manager, American Academy of Periodontology Foundation

Christopher from NPower Seattle:

Connection to mission is what it’s all about right? If a member of your constituency isn’t feeling it, or feels stronger connection to another mission, then what are the chances of that long-term relationship continuing to grow? In my mind the best way to build that relationship is to identify those things to which the constituent connects best and be sure that you are “keeping them in the loop.” The birthday cards, phone calls and events mean nothing if you are not using them to provide a clear and consistent message that your mission is something that resonates with them, and is something exciting to be involved with. We are not selling the mission, we are inviting them to be part of something important.


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