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Guest post by Ayda Sanver, MBA, CFRE  – Ayda Sanver Consulting, LLC – AydaSanver.com

Nonprofit organizational staff that don’t take time to engage in cultivating their top 20-30 repeat, loyal donors are losing a missed opportunity of gargantuan proportions.

So, what exactly is proper donor cultivation?  It’s a series of tasks, or “moves,” designed to keep the donor informed and engaged with the organization year round.

I like how my friends and fundraising experts Jim Shapiro and Steven Screen of TheBetterFundraisingCompany.com phrase the process:

Ask – Thank – Report – Repeat

One can think of this as a continuous “feedback loop.”  Let’s break this down a bit-

  1. The right person makes the right ask at the right time for the right and clearly stated purpose that is of interest to the donor – you need to know your donor very well prior to this ask.
  2. The donor is thanked promptly and in several ways over time – a phone call from a board member, a handwritten note, and so on.
  3. The donor is sent information on how their gift was used. This is the “report back” that is often omitted and can be critical to securing future gifts. The reporting back could occur through an in-person meeting, a site visit to your program, or a mailing (or e-mail) with photos of the gift in action, to name a few.
  4. Steps 1-3 are repeated throughout the year – I would add that you seek feedback from the donor and take their “pulse” about how they are feeling as they become more familiar and engaged with the organization.

In addition, this is not a cookie-cutter process, but a process that is tailored to the personality and giving style of each donor. It takes thoughtful planning and research and getting to know each donor intimately. Many fundraising software programs today have functionality to record notes from visits or phone calls and to set reminders for tasks like thanking and reporting. So, don’t let another day go by without simply picking up the phone and saying “thank you” to a loyal donor. You simply cannot afford not to!

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