The one place we struggle as nonprofits holds the key to help us dramatically increase our revenue. We do not spend nearly enough time letting our donors know the impact their support is having. Just how little time? According to Penelope Burke, author of Donor Centered Fundraising, 94% of our donors “never” or “rarely” get a call from us unless it is a solicitation. One of the most important things we can do to reverse this trend is let our donors and prospects know how their gifts make an impact. For our major gift prospects this is the time to give them an experience deepening their understanding of us that brings them closer to making a gift.
Engaging Major Donors & Prospects with Creative “Hands-On” Cultivation Moments
Ready to learn how to create creative “hands-on” cultivation moments to engage a prospect to connect with you cause and donate or for an existing donor, to make a larger gift? Here’s the first thing you won’t do: give your donor or prospect an actual volunteer job that you need done. Secondly, you will NOT ask them to donate money during this event.
You are creating an experience connecting your donor to your cause in a personally meaningful way. You want to thoughtfully and carefully craft an experience that is impactful, meaningful, and hands on from start to finish. From the moment your donor parks their car in the parking lot you want them to start enjoying a graceful, interesting, satisfying and rewarding event where they learn new things and feel closer and more connected to your cause and the important work you do.
Sounds great, how do I do it?
- Pick your audience. This could be cultivation for new donors or stewardship for existing donors. In addition to targeting donors and major gift prospects you might also be targeting media, stakeholders, and board prospects.
- Select a central activity or task. Is there a role you can cast a donor or prospect in to help them feel close to your cause? I cast mine as college admissions counselors whose task was to tell 150 middle school girls that they had just been accepted into an ivy league university for our Take a Girl to College Day event. Is there an activity they can do that makes your mission come alive? How about making toiletry kits for displaced victims of natural disasters or homeless people? Feature clients served by your mission as part of your program to share their testimonials. Don’t have a chance for them to meet your clients first hand? Have them read it. For example, an environmental organization that helps incubate local green businesses, can invite corporate leaders (both donors and prospects) to volunteer by evaluating the business plans of up-and-coming entrepreneurs.” Be as creative as your mission!
- Roll out the red carpet. Valet parking, a green room, an orientation, a board escort to guide them through the program, refreshments and networking with other VIP’s – you’re your guests feel as special as they are to you!
- Plan every second of their experience. From the moment they park their car what will they see? How will they be led through multiple opportunities to connect with your cause? Assign a handler, ideally a leadership volunteer, for every VIP or small groups of VIPS. Do not leave one second to chance. Be thoughtful and plan what you want them to see to make sure your work achieves your intended result.
- Engage leadership volunteers. What is a leadership volunteer? A board member who donates their time and their dollars to your organization. Why do they matter more than anyone else? Their immense credibility and power comes from their selfless personal dedication. Staff are passionate, but they are also paid a salary to perform their jobs.
- Start on time, end on time.
- Follow up! Thank them for coming and making an impact.
Remember that if it is not hassle free they can’t experience that mission moment! Want to learn more about crafting high impact events for your nonprofit’s prospects and donors? Download our white paper on donor cultivation.