Cultivation Process

To a great extent, a major gifts program is a textbook effort in marketing — your objective is to involve your “friends” with your organization, its activities and its mission so they come to want to do what it is you want them to do.

Early on, soon after you compiled your list of wealthy individuals, your major gifts committee discussed each of those — their likes and dislikes, hobbies, involvements with and giving to other NPOs, families/birthdays/anniversaries, vacation preferences, etc., and tried to identify the contact person(s) — the future cultivator(s) — who knew those potential Prospects and could tell you more about them.

Specifically, you wanted to know whether or not you had or could get access, and what it was that was important to them — what motivated them and stirred their passions — what made them feel good.

And that, that last concept/phrase, that’s the key — what makes them feel good?? It never hurts to repeat the thought: “Major-gift fundraising is about the needs of the donor, not the needs of the organization.”

Some friends will enjoy attending events, some won’t. Some will be glad to provide their advice, some won’t. Some will like to get their families involved … will be eager to participate in committee work … will be interested in seeing programs in action … in seeing people being served … in seeing their names prominently displayed … in being anonymous….

The “buy-in” process is a gradual commitment from your friend to the goals and objectives of your organization. It may include, at one or more points in the process (depending on the length of the cultivation period), a request that s/he (along with the vast majority of your ongoing supporters) “write a check.”

That ask will make the point that the organization needs contributed funding to do its good work. And the check that will be written will likely not be a major or special gift, but a gift that will recognize a need and demonstrate interest.

So!! The more you know about your potential prospects, the better you can address his/her needs. And, because that is basic to the process, you wind up having to design a separate cultivation program and timetable for each person on your list.

Of course, once you have a relationship with your new friend, there will be lots of opportunities to learn more about him/her, to add others to the list of cultivators, to update the profile and tailor the cultivation to his/her needs.


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