Two Ridiculously Simple Major Donor Cultivation Strategies

, ,

What kind of major donor cultivation strategies do you think work the best?

Do you ever find it challenging to have conversations with prospective donors and develop their interest in your cause?

I am a fan of an easy going, no pressure approach to major donor cultivation.

You don’t have to “pitch” your donor. (NOT!)

And it meeting with donors doesn’t have to be scary or difficult or nerve-wracking.

Try my top two ridiculously simple major donor cultivation strategies – kinder, gentler, more fun and much more successful ways to connect with your donors:

Ridiculously Simple Strategy #1: Don’t do all the talking. Listen instead.


Because if you do all the talking, your donor will be sitting there passively.

She might be listening. Or maybe not. Maybe her mind is wandering!

Maybe she’s thinking about lunch or (worse) when will this meeting be over?

Don’t make this mistake. Don’t talk too much!

If you have to – make a deal with someone to kick you under the table if you go on too long!

I’ve written before about the Kiss of Death to a Fundraiser.

Handshake | Gail Perry

Partner with us.

Find out how we can help you achieve your fundraising goals with world-class consulting and custom training.

What is the kiss of death for a fundraiser?

It’s being boring. And you are boring when you talk too much.

If you are doing more than 50% of the talking, you are dead.

Because what you really want is to find out what’s on your donor’s mind. Right?

So you ask, and then you listen! That’s how major donor cultivation works best!

Remember my fundraising motto: “When in Doubt, Shut Up!”

You ask probing questions; open ended questions.

Listening to your donor will usually tell you everything you need to know.

You are interested. You are exploring. You are gathering such very important data:

  • What are her hot buttons?
  • What are her passions and interests?
  • What does she believe in?
  • What are her philanthropic priorities?
  • What does she like about your organization’s work?

That’s why we say in fundraising: “Listen your way to the gift.”

Your donor will tell you what you need to know.

Nobody seems to listen much any more. You’ll stand out when you keep your mouth shut around your favorite donors. : )

Listening will open the door to your donor’s heart, her dreams and her vision. You are just connecting her vision with the cause she cares about a lot.

Listening will give you a road map to her cultivation plan.

Listening will tell you her hot buttons to emphasize when you start building a cultivation plan for her.

Listening will even tell you when she’s ready to be solicited.

Ridiculously Simple Strategy #2: WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS?

This is my magic open-ended question. It’s a reliable first-rate major donor cultivation strategy – hands down!

I love, love to ask people about their impressions of my organization, our fundraising, our challenges, our position in the community, the problems we are trying to solve, etc.

You can ask their impressions about many things.

This is how I find out what is really happening inside my prospective donor’s heart and mind.

“What are your impressions?” is open-ended enough to offer a safe platform for whatever comment your prospect wants to make.

You find out all sorts of information – things you had no idea what is going on with your prospect.

It tells you where the prospect stands on your issue. It often will tell you why or why not the prospect is excited about your cause.

And it can guide you to a clear next step with your prospect.

It has helped me many a time.

When I was not sure about the next step or where the person’s real interest was, I could always rely on this simple question.

It has saved my day when I did not know what to say, or was having trouble getting the prospect to talk to me.

Ask the question and presto, you are off and running with the prospect in the lead.

And when the donor takes the lead, that’s when the magic happens!

Bottom line: Major Donor Cultivation Made Easy

We all know that good major donor cultivation is all about engaging the donor — not just pitching them.

When donors do the talking and sharing their impressions, then they are becoming more engaged and involved.

Involvement leads to investment.

Listening and asking their impressions will take you far down the fundraising superhighway – right into the next big gift for your cause!

What are your impressions of this article? (My favorite question again!)

Share them and let me know what you think!