Donor Cultivation

By | June 19, 2017

HaybalesDonor Cultivation” means continuing to build a relationship with a donor and asking them for additional gifts. The term ‘donor cultivation” can be used in each of the different kinds of fundraising, but it looks a bit different depending on the fundraising method.

Donor cultivation will generate most of your revenue. Why is that? It typically costs you money to acquire new donors. Once a donor has made their first gift, they are much more likely to make additional gifts. They have already decided that you are worthy of their gift, now you just have to reinforce that decision and ask for additional gifts.

Donor cultivation – According to fundraising style

Offertory – Your donor cultivation is the weekly ‘passing the basket’. This can be accompanied by printed giving envelopes, reminders in the bulletin, announcements from the pulpit, or even a stewardship campaign.

Direct Mail – You cultivate direct mail donors by continuing to mail them fundraising requests. Ideally, you should have an annual calendar of regular mailings to your current donors.

Grants – To cultivate grantors, you should have an annual calendar of grant and reporting deadlines. Make sure you submit your applications and reports on time… you don’t want to lose these donors.

E-mail – Similar to direct mail, you should have a regular communications calendar with your e-mail donors. You don’t want to overdo it, though, because they will hit the unsubscribe button.

Major Gifts – Your cultivation strategy with major gift donors will look a little different. Cultivation will involve multiple ‘non-ask’ contacts in the course of the year building up to your annual (or twice annual) ask. Cultivation for the Major Gift fundraiser is much more about showing the love than asking regularly.

Capital Campaigns – Since Capital Campaigns are usually big, one-time projects, cultivation means keeping the donors involved after they make the gift. Sometimes, a donor can be asked for an additional gift to support the capital campaign if sufficient time has passed and you can show that you’re near your goal.

Planned Gifts – Cultivation for a planned gift really happens at the major gift level. Your major givers are the people who are most likely to make planned gift. Build that relationship, make sure they feel appreciated.


Need some new ideas on how to fundraise? Check out The Fundraiser’s Playbook and find the fundraising strategy that will work best for you!

Image courtesy of Bernard Spragg, via the Public Domain.