Donor cultivation for online giving is a balancing act. You want to build a stronger relationship between the donor and what you’re doing without causing them to hit the ‘unsubscribe’ button. The nice thing about developing your online cultivation strategy is that you can access lots of hard data about how well your donors are responding to what you’re doing.
Several different types of cultivation are possible. Here are some options, but by no means are they the only ones. Get creative and make new ones (let me know if you’re successful).
- Thank you! – This is really critical. When people make a donation, you need to have a nice thank you note sent immediately. And not just a donation receipt, but a letter that tells them what a big impact their donation is going to make.
- Welcome Series – If you’re using a web tool like MailChimp, you can create a series of automated e-mails that will be sent out during the next several months. You can use these e-mails to introduce them to the history of your organization, spotlight a program, share about the problem that you’re trying to solve, and even invite them to get involved. The whole idea is to help keep them connected to the organization so that they become a regular donor rather than a one-time donor.
- The Ask – This is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a fundraising letter sent electronically. Writing these kinds of e-mails is an art in itself, but the essence is you need to thank them for their contribution(s), present your need for funds in a compelling and interesting way, and ask them for money. No, you don’t get to imply the ask. You really have to say, “Please give.”
- Newsletter – E-newsletters can have a donate button on them somewhere, but the ‘ask’ is not the primary focus. The main focus of a good e-newsletter is the good that the donors have been able to accomplish through their gift to your organization. This is really a “Thank you” piece with warm fuzzy feelings for the donors.
- News Digest – This format works best for news and information ministries that have a constant stream of articles for supporters to read. These can be monthly, weekly, or even daily, as long as you ask their permission to send that frequently. Make sure you have something new and important to say, because this amount of email can fade into background noise… one of those emails that gets automatically deleted without being opened.
- Advocacy – Advocacy e-mails ask people to take a specific action… sign a petition, write their senator, share a post on social media. These help people to feel more involved with the work that your ministry is doing.
- Invitations to volunteer – Creating meaningful ways for people to get involved in your ministry has tremendous impact. A lot of donors like to actually be doing something fun and meaningful. Parents especially like ways for their children to serve others.
- Invitations to events – Events take a long time to plan and a lot of effort, but inviting your donors to some kind of event might be the right way to help them connect with your ministry.
- Survey – Want to know what’s important to people on your e-mail list? Ask them! Many different websites like Surveymonkey, SurveyGizmo, and Checkbox Survey will help you create a survey and send it out to your audience.
- Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit… these are all different social media platforms. Social media is an advertising platform. People who want to use it to build their brand (and cultivate relationships with their donors) should plan on investing money in it. Things are not always as ‘viral’ as they appear to be. Mark Zuckerburg (Founder of Facebook) is not a billionaire because he provides a free communications platform to teenagers. It’s because he provides a paid advertising platform with access to lots of teenagers. It takes a lot of time and energy to build a strong social media presence, so do some research and some hard thinking before you invest a lot of time or money in it.