“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.