Happy Weekend! We thought you’d be interested in this topic today. And if you are interested in closing more major and principal gifts, then we have a great guide today for you to save time. 

It’s about all the time we waste cultivating donors. To us, it’s so frustrating to nurture a donor who never comes through with a gift. 

We have all been there. This particular donor loves all the attention, attends all our events, and enjoys our nice dinners. But they never make the gift that we surely think they will. 

You’ve probably been here as well. Have you ever spent months and months, even years, before you manage to get the donor into an ask conversation? 

How about all that time you are spent cultivating your donor? Is it wasted? Could you have moved more quickly?  Would your donor have been willing to give sooner??

How can you know? 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to move to an ask conversation more quickly? How nice would it feel to be able to find out early in the game if your donor wants to help NOW rather than later? 

It really is possible to find out where your donor stands.

 You just have to ask. But you have to ask skillfully. 

We’ve developed a cultivation process that we call the Skillful Conversation. It’s like a roadmap that guides you to find out what you need to know– and get the ask on the table as soon as possible so you can save time.

What’s more, it’s extremely polite and donor-centered.  This conversation process is never, ever pushy. (We’re southern, remember?) 

With the Skillful Conversation process, you’re never directly asking for a gift. You are oblique, inquiring, playing sleuth.

In our upcoming Major Gifts Intensive program, we’ll be training and coaching our members on how to implement the Skillful Conversation process. What’s more, we’ll be teaching them five different ways to get to an Ask Conversation. If you’d like to join us, check out the program here.  Applications close Feb 24th so schedule your call with us quickly!  

What you are really doing is simply finding out what’s on your donor’s mind. 

You can easily ask your donor:  

“How interested are you in our cause and our organization’s work?”

What resonates most with you about our work?”

“Would you like to  know how you can help?”

These are such important questions! But so few fundraisers get around to asking about the important stuff. We are all too busy wining, dining and cultivating our donors. 

The end result – we postpone important conversations to the back burner. We beat around the bush, because we just don’t know what to say.  

Sometimes we probably feel awkward, a little nervous, and don’t want to appear pushy. We don’t want to sacrifice our relationship by asking too soon or too quickly – because we know that strategy can certainly backfire! 

Never assume. 

This is one of the great rules of fundraising – don’t assume you know what your donor wants to do, or when they want to do it. 

You can easily find out if your donor is ready to give now vs later. Don’t assume. Just ask. 

Ask them if they’d like to talk about supporting your organization. Or ask them if this is a good time to chat about support. 

It’s all based in permission. Step-by-step, you are asking your donor if they are interested in finding out this or that, or if they want to explore this or that. 

You can relax – just keep asking questions, and your donor feels like she’s in charge. 

Bottom Line: She who asks the questions, controls the conversation.

These tips today can take you right down the pathway to a major, principal and/or transformational gift. Don’t forget to use the Skillful Conversation process. Be polite, donor-centered, and gracious. Ask your donor directly how they feel and what they want to do.

Your fundraising totals will certainly go up! And you’ll save time. Remember the climate is excellent for major gifts right now. Donors are giving. Don’t shy away! 

P.S. Major Gifts Intensive 2021 is open for applications!

Would you like: 

  • A systematic, proven major gifts training and coaching program to expand your team’s success? 
  • To learn permission-based asking techniques that can close transformational gifts? 

The Major Gifts Intensive will help you lay down the systems, mindset, vision, structure and processes for a long-term productive major gift program that will deliver measurable results for years.

We’ll share the core highly successful strategies that we’ve taught thousands of people since 2000, from community organizations to the largest universities.

Find out more here. 

“Cultivate donors.” I bet you’ve heard that before. 

But how do we accomplish this in the virtual environment? 

We like to think of cultivation as nurturing your donor’s philanthropic interest in your organization’s work.

And you are a crucial piece of the puzzle. You are the factor that allows your donors’ gifts to impact the world. 

So how do you cultivate donors, this fall, in a virtual environment?

1. Identify the objective of each cultivation activity

Do you often leave your house without a destination in mind? Probably not. So why would you undertake a cultivation journey without a destination in mind and a route to get there?

When you reach out to a donor, are you trying to deepen that relationship with the donor? Or perhaps your goal is just to build awareness and trust with this particular donor? 

Invest time to lay out clear objectives for each contact with a specific donor. Without objectives, you will wander in circles, and go nowhere.

And luckily, the virtual environment forces you to have clear objectives! Since you can’t entertain or take your donor to lunch, you have to be clear on what you want to accomplish when you’re on a virtual visit.  

2. Understand why you are undertaking this activity

What is the difference  between building awareness for a donor and deepening a relationship? 

We’re glad you asked. 

Building awareness is usually the first step in building a connection between the donor and your organization. If a donor understands how your mission and impact connect with their personal passions and interests, they will likely engage more often.

Deepening a relationship is the next step. This leads to a stronger connection between the donor and your work. And that results in larger and/or more frequent gifts.

Your goal is to find out what motivates the donor. What are they excited about? Which aspects about your work do they love? What will create that deeper connection between their philanthropic desire and your organization’s mission?

3. Implement cultivation activities 

Build Awareness 

The pandemic challenged the world in many ways, and sometimes in a good way. We have to be more creative. Get back to the basics of what is important. Build relationships. 

Successfully building awareness relies heavily on your communication strategies. Are they personalized enough? Transparent and authentic enough? Are they focused and interesting? 

Be creative with crafting cultivation experiences. Many organizations are succeeding with virtual town halls. Also many donors are responding to personalized presentations with key program staff. 

Remember, your donors want to learn more about their favorite interest areas. 

A few key tips for these digital events:

  • Keep it short
  • Keep it focused
  • Don’t lose sight of what donors care about

Deepening Relationships

Relationships are what giving is all about. 

What better way to rapidly deepen a relationship with a donor than a 30-minute Zoom call, eye-to-eye, no distractions?

And current events can give you the opportunity you need to find a connection with your donor. Are they a parent? Ask them how the transition back to school during COVID has been. 

Are they constantly commenting on your social media posts? Call them up and thank them for the interest, ask if you can answer any questions for them or for advice.

The golden rule is to create a connection. 

Find topics unique to the donor. Take the time to learn what makes them tick. They are a person, not just a number after all!

You may find that, if you use this time wisely to deepen relationships and gather “data” on your donors, COVID may raise you more future gifts than you could ever imagine. 

Bottom Line: Cultivating donors is really just nurturing that existing relationship

Don’t be scared by the looming idea of needing to “cultivate your donor.” Appeal to them as humans, build a relationship, nurture their interests, and you’ve succeeded. 

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. In addition, we are hiring! If you are an experienced consultant interested in joining our team, let us know!

Planning a capital campaign? If you would like to learn about our unique Capital Campaigns by the Numbers approach, please reach out. 

Hope you have a wonderful weekend.