Storytelling Tours Are Great Donor Cultivation Tools

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One of our favorite donor cultivation tools is a carefully-designed storytelling tour. But we are not talking about just any tour – this is a special, scripted, step-by-step tour.

kids for peace 2

Photo courtesy for Kids for Peace, Durham NC

A Storytelling Tour can help you spread the word in your community — and build visibility and support for your mission.

Even more, a great tour is wonderful because it lets your organization’s work speak for itself. 

Your tour is a show and tell – and, it’s specifically designed for donors and potential donors to get to know you better.

The tours we set up for our capital campaign clients are different.

In these scripted tours, your guests get to hear directly from staff members or even clients/students/stakeholders. (Remember one of fundraising’s golden rules:  you don’t sell the building itself, instead, you are selling what happens inside the building.)

In this kind of tour, real people, who actually work for your cause, are expressing to donors their personal first-hand experience of your organization.

It’s their personal stories of the good your nonprofit does in the community that are so powerful. You can’t get much better than that.

We’ve set up a storytelling donor cultivation tour for many of our capital campaign clients.  These tours are expressly designed to help us identify and engage new major donor prospects for the campaign.

With one of our current campaign clients, we are moving through the campaign prospect list, person by person, and we’re inviting our “cool” prospects on a riveting tour experience. We’re designing the tour explicitly to move certain prospects from “cool” to “warm” or even perhaps ready them for a Gift Conversation

So, as you can see, if tours are done effectively- they will provide enormous benefits to your nonprofit.

Why tours are such great donor cultivation tools:

1. Connect With New Donors.

A well-laid out storytelling tour can help introduce new major donors to your cause. As we’ve mentioned, it’s one of our favorite donor engagement tools.

Your tour is a format for inviting new people, sharing your mission with them, and opening the door for a deeper relationship.  By all means, it gives you a great reason to be in touch with new people.

Example: You may have a major gift prospect who has not been available for a meeting, but who WILL be interested to see your organization’s work first hand.  

2.  Engage Your Current Donors.

Even more, your storytelling tour experience can help bring your current donors closer. For example, it’s a great format for helping your donors understand what’s really going on. And (as we like to say) you can rub their noses in your mission.

Tour experiences for current donors help to build donor loyalty, increase future gifts and raise donor retention. Clearly, they can help build a sustainable fundraising program. 

Storytelling tours should be an important part of every nonprofit’s stewardship or donor relations program. 

3. Find New Capital Campaign Prospects.

Well-organized tours are a perfect format for inviting the major philanthropists and leaders of your community in to hear about your work. Many of our capital campaigns have used the tour experience approach to invite major prospects in, and show them your work first hand.

Don’t forget that tours can help you get in front of potential mega donors, especially if the right person does the inviting.

Example: Try systematically conducting storytelling tour experiences early in the campaign. You’ll have a wonderful tool for bringing new major gift prospects into the fold. 

4. Engage Your Board in Fundraising:

Your board members are probably scared of fundraising and unsure how to help. They don’t want to “hit up” their friends.

So the tour offers an easy format for board members get involved. They can open the door, and invite their friends and people from their networks.

Your board members’ friends who come on the tours can self-identify whether they are interested in your organization’s work.

Therefore, your board members are not twisting anyone’s arm – instead, they are just issuing a broad invitation. People who are interested will attend, and people who are not interested will not respond to the invitation.

Example: Ask each board member to be the official “host” of a particular tour on a certain date. That’s when they can and should invite their own contacts. 

5. Introduce Your Program Staff to Donors:

Tours showcase your hard-working program staff – and they deserve the recognition!

Your tour helps important internal staffers view fundraising from a completely different angle – because they are meeting donors personally.

The tour allows them to actually participate in the fundraising process in a way that makes them completely comfortable.

Example: During a tour, one of your top program directors can tell stories about what they see in the field, and and how it feels to do your work. This is something you can never do.

6. Show Off Your Boss:

Here’s a chance for your CEO to shine. They get to share a leadership vision of where your organization is heading and what it hopes to do for your community.

You give your chief executive visibility in front of important donors and civic leaders, and that’s always a smart strategy!

Example: It’s a great time to work with your CEO on a “visionary leader” speech. This is where you CEO should live – in the place of vision and possibility for your organization’s work. 

Bottom Line: Storytelling Tours are One of Your Best Donor Cultivation Tools.

Tours are a fabulous way to make new friends for the cause, connect more deeply with current donors – and spread the word about your mission.

Just be sure they are well-crafted and that you follow-up!

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or expanding your major gifts program – we can help. Email if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.