Discovery, Cultivation, Solicitation & Stewardship

May 20, 2014

If you have been in fundraising you know those those three words all to well. But I’ve found that often we talk a lot about them and never actually use them. How often do we talk about creating a great process to cultivate or steward donors and then never actually take the time to spend with the donor? Before I go any further I think I should briefly define what each of these words mean. Feel free to add your own thoughts and definitions below.

Discovery: This is taking the time to talk with a donor about their interests. This process is about finding donors that are interested in the kind of charitable work of your nonprofit.

Cultivation: The process by which you improve and grow the relationship with a donor. This could look like donor tours, birthday cards, and little updates about the organization. This does not include asking for money.

Solicitation: The practice of making the final visit/proposal to ask for something from money to in-kind services/product. This usually follows cultivation when it is done properly. Typically a donor will know that solicitation is coming if you have sufficiently cultivated them.

Stewardship: I think of stewardship as the “thank you.” This could also be described as the follow-up after a gift has been made. Is the donor receiving thank you calls, sponsors receiving all promised benefits? Stewardship should not be a one time thing but should happen multiple times and in many ways can be included in the cultivation process.

So what does all this mean? All of these words, ideas, and plans are intended to allow us to get to know the donor better. Too often I have found that us in development talk more about our planning than actually talk to the donor. I think that we could narrow all three of these categories down to one word: relationship. If you have a good relationship with a donor all bets are off on your traditional process. They know the heart of the organization and because of their connection to you want to be a part of supporting it.


The Heart of a Program Staffer

May 6, 2014

I think that every person that gets into fundraising has the same heart as a program staffer. We believe in the issues and people that our non-profits serve. It is those issues and people that drive us to continue to do the very work we do. And we believe this so strongly that we commit to finding sustainability for the work that we do. Money is one of the closest things to our hearts and can be one of the most heartfelt responses to a need. We all want to lend a helping hand but when that helping hand is supported by financial resources we can often start to really solve problems.

Those of us that are in fundraising believe so strongly in what we are doing that simply addressing the direct issue is not enough. We need to gather other people around us to do the same thing. That is what our donors are they are the community advocates, the “evangelists,” the story tellers, of the important work that we are trying to do.

When I say that I want to treat my donors in a different way (All Donors as Major Donors) I am saying that real world change, really making a difference, happens because the entire organization is behind the same idea. This includes the donors and realizing that their giving cannot just be a one-time “payment” it has to be an “investment.” That their gift needs to signify more than just a transaction but a commitment to the mission of the non-profit. And if that investment is really going to effect the organization and make change then the development officer needs to understand and support why that investment is being made.

Fundraising is just as much about people and changing the world as a program staff position. We need to take a real and personal interest in the lives of those that are joining us in what we do… our donors.