Step-by-Step Cultivation Moves for Your Major Gift Prospect


Trying to create cultivation moves for major gift prospects? Here’s our approach:

So you’ve managed to make your first visit with an important major gift prospect. What next?

Cultivating Major Donors is Like Spinning Plates on a Stick – you can only do so many at once!

How do you manage to grow her interest in your cause? What’s your excuse for visiting with her again?

I’m working with some wonderful clients creating a step-by-step process to help them follow up on their major gift prospects.

I thought it would be helpful to share these ideas with you – so you can create your step-by-step plan to cultivate your major donors.

If you follow this process correctly, you should be able to land a wonderfully large gift to your cause.

Here’s the scenario:

The Central North Carolina Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society (our wonderful client) is planning an exciting capital campaign to raise money for research.

There’s Good News and Bad News:

The Good News is that this chapter raises almost $2 million a year through various events. This is terrific, especially in this economy.

The Bad News is that the chapter doesn’t really have a formal, structured major gift program. So there’s some work to be to get ready for a capital campaign.

But now, opportunity knocks.

A campaign looms, and major donor prospects must be identified and cultivated.

Have YOU ever been in that situation before?

How do you find and build major donor prospects for your campaign?

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How to build momentum with prospects.

We wanted to create a series of contacts with our wonderful prospects that all built on each other.

We wanted to try to develop each person’s personal tie to our cause – and make our project bigger on their radar screen.

We were pondering our “moves.” What are the steps that would bring them closer to us?

These are huge questions.  Every smart fundraiser scratches his or her head alot, thinking “what to do next?”

What’s a “move?”

A move is a meaningful contact with your prospect.

Somehow you need to penetrate the consciousness of your prospective donor about your cause. And that’s called a “move.”

If you want to prepare someone for a major gift ask, you should have at least one move a month for them.

Moves Management is a widely used system for managing the major gift process. It helps you track your cultivation steps month by month to prep for the ask.

It’s a wonderful way to organize what can be a very amorphous process.


Get to know you meeting:

  • Here’s our cause and our opportunity – we’d love to have your help. Who else in the community do you think would be interested?

Personal visit after a gift:

  • Thank you so much – why did you choose to give?
  • I’d love to hear your story.

Advice visit:

  • Can I come to pick your brain?
  • Here’s our challenge and our plan for meeting the challenge. what do you think?
  • I’ve written extensively about advice visits here, here, and here. They are just about the easiest way to get in front of a prospect and develop their interest in your work.

A behind-the-scenes tour of your work.

  • I think a tour is your BEST-ever cultivation move.
  • Because personal experience almost always touches the hearts of donors.

My fundraising colleagues often say, “if we can just get people here, we’ve got them hooked forever.”

Invitations to special events or briefings.

For my MS Chapter, we are going to invite all the people who were interviewed in the Feasibility Study to a private briefing about my findings. We’ll include a social hour.

It’s a terrific cultivation move to follow up the Feasibility Study this way.

Dinner or meeting with your CEO.

  • One of my favorite clients, the St. John Medical Foundation in Oregon, hosts a dinner each month with the hospital’s CEO.  (I’m actually writing from there today – just finished up a “refresher” board retreat.
  • And board members host these dinners in their homes.

It’s been a smashing success – creating terrific moves on prospects and engaging board members at a much deeper level.

Special “Insiders Mailing.”

  • We love the idea of a VIP mailing list.
  • Create a list of important people, donors, and community leaders – and send them an occasional VIP briefing by your CEO. You’d be surprised how many people notice and appreciate the personal attention.

Bottom Line: Cultivation Moves for Major Gift Prospects

Be sure you create a specific plan that has a series of action steps for each donor.

Don’t leave cultivation to chance or serendipity. Or, when you get around to it.

Make a deliberate plan and make it happen. Then enjoy the results. : )

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