Donor Cultivation on a Budget

November 18, 2013 - by Lynn Mehaffy

5 (Free) Ways to Cultivate Your Donors (and Improve Your Fundraising)

Plenty of research suggests that the key to donor loyalty and increased giving has as much to do with the times you DON'T ask your donors for money as the times you DO.
Thanking donors, sharing success stories, showing them how their charitable gifts are making a difference — these are the communications that strengthen the relationship between an organization and its donors.
But sometimes, that’s easier said than done. 
Many non-profit organizations have small staffs, and budgets that are stretched pretty thin.  Some feel they don't have the time or the money to invest in donor cultivation.
So we'd like to offer five tips for donor cultivation that are perfect for organizations that are short on time and money:

  • Devote the first 10 minutes of every Board meeting to calling donors and thanking them.  Ask your Board members to bring their cell phones.  Hand out five names to each person — and start thanking.  You can target new donors, donors who upgrade, long-time donors or donors who make more than one gift within the year.  These are easy calls for Board members to make, and they make a big difference to donors. 
  • Send out a few emails each year that share great success stories or other heartwarming news about your organization — and don't ask for money.  Emails can be short — just a few paragraphs in length.  But they should focus on the fact that it was donors who made the success possible.
  • Change your acknowledgement letter every few months.  Your best donors are probably giving you more than one gift per year.  Make the thank you more personal and meaningful by refreshing it several times throughout the year.
  • Include other goodies in the thank you.  Has there been a great article in the local paper about the work you do?  Have you received a heartfelt note of thanks from one of your beneficiaries?  Make some extra copies and include them in your acknowledgement letters.  Donors will love them.
  • Always call the complainers.  People who care enough about your organization to register a complaint are worth a phone call.  You can earn a friend for life by listening and responding appropriately to a donor complaint.

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