A Cultivation Tool for Recruiting, Convincing Major Donors

Use a Cultivation Calendar with Major Donors.
Use a Cultivation Calendar with Major Donors.

Generosity is a key characteristic of a society with a successful and healthy nonprofit sector. On an individual level, nonprofits need to cultivate a varied portfolio for their funding plan in order to maintain a balanced budget.

Just like you would not ask someone to marry you the first time you bump into them on the street, you’ll want to be careful not to ask major donors to give too early in the process. You need to cultivate that relationship, almost like you’re dating!

My last blog post outlined tips on how to maintain this relationship with donors who’ve previously given. But, what about starting a new relationship — and specifically with someone you hope will be able to provide a large sum of money?

Here’s a good place to start.


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Track every prospective major donor, and every move you make for a more effective, successful fundraising process.

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Appeal to donors’ emotions. A great first step is telling your story in the right way. Your nonprofit exists to fill a need in the community, but if you don’t position it correctly it’s not always going to easily resonate with your prospective donors. Don’t just share starts or talk about the structure of your programs — start with the human element, tell the stories that move you to tears and put a smile on your face. Get your current volunteers, donors or clients to talk about the impact you’ve made. Show that your organization is real, and you’ll attract attention.

Find the right people. When telling your story as described above, also keep in mind the audience you want to attract. This can often involve understanding the demographics of your current donor base. If you know, for example, that donors with a career in the law enforcement field are more often compelled to donate large gifts to your cause, then create content that more specifically appeals to their interests. Also, don’t be afraid to ask current donors if they have a friend, colleague or family member who might be interested in also supporting your organization — it’s likely they’ll be happy to make that introduction. (Bonus: check out this neat LinkedIn tip for finding new donor prospects.)

Explain the investment. Make it very clear to individuals who donate — before & after they give — where their investment is making an impact. Offer a list of dollar amounts and specific impact so they understand how they made a difference. This also gives the donor the feel good moment and the bragging rights, when they’re able to say, “I saved 3 kids’ lives with my donation to Children’s House” versus, “I gave $1,000 to the organization to make a difference.” Which statement would you rather make? Specific impact helps you, and helps them — win, win!

Cultivate the relationship. It’s important to be proactive and monitor the direction your relationship is headed. This is where things might get a little different than dating … you’re not likely to be planning every next move when your building a romantic relationship — but busy nonprofits should most definitely maintain an accurate record of the past and future touch points with each donor you hope to move into major giver status.

How do you cultivate major donors?

I’ve created this awesome Cultivation Calendar to get your entire team on the same page and give you direction with your major donors. Download this FREE tool now!