When I ask new clients or participants in my workshops how they currently cultivate their donors, I hear things like:
- Send them a newsletter
- Invite them to an event
- Take them on a tour
But all these are ways to let people know about you. Cultivation, on the other hand, should be all about learning (more) about your prospects. So sure, send them a newsletter—then reach out and ask what they thought about the article describing the new program; the pictures of your clients, or the new layout of the newsletter.
Invite them to an event—and make sure that the right people are introduced, have an opportunity to talk, and/or are seated next to your prospect. The right people, of course, depends on who your prospect is. It could be your CEO, your board president, a client, a program manager. You need to match the person to the prospect.
But mainly what you do during cultivation is learn as much as you can about your prospects goals and dreams; what motivates them—and yes, what things will turn them off.
The way you do this, of course, is to ask a lot of questions. But you don’t want your donors to feel as if this is 20 questions (or that they are a teenager being harassed by their helicopter mom). These need to be conversations and a good way to start a conversation is to share something about you and then asking how that works for them.
For example, instead of just asking “how many kids do you have? What ages?” Talk about your kids—or your sister’s kids if you have any. Don’t, of course get off track and end up complaining about your rotten teenager or how awful your daughter’s husband is. Remember, this is about your donor, even if it appears to start with you.
Before you go out and start gathering information, do find out what you already know. This is the real value of your CMS. Alas, too many of us do not document our interactions with our prospects and therefore all that valuable information resides somewhere, but not anywhere where you can get to it.
Once you know what you know, the next step is to figure out what you need to know. How long that list is, will influence how long of a cultivation process you must have.
As you learn about the prospect, you are able to craft a giving opportunity that will bring that donor—and your organization—real joy.
Janet Levine Consulting works to help nonprofits move from mired to inspired. Learn more at http://janetlevineconsulting.com. While there, sign up for our newsletter and do contact us for a free 30-minute consultation.