Q. What goes into long-term cultivation of prospective donors over time, when the expected ‘pay-off’ may be far into the future?

A. Long-term cultivation is indeed the ideal path to enhanced relationships and, ultimately, larger donations.  And just as each donation may be independent of others yet part of a larger campaign, each cultivation should be tailored to the individual yet part of an overall strategy.

Look at each person, couple or family, and, then create the best, strategic engagement plan.

No matter how much you need or want money from that person, today, remember that long-term cultivation is not about asking for money now – it is about continuing to contact or touch the person in a variety of ways so you can ask with confidence down the line.

Touches serve quite a few purposes for the donor including: keeping the organization top of mind, building confidence in the leadership, staff and organization, remembering the connection that initiated the relationship, and knowing that they are important to the organization as something more than just a checkbook.

Is the person in a high tech industry and appreciates the efficiency of email?  Or does the person use a computer infrequently and might benefit more from a personal phone call?  Notice the way they contact you and your organization for clues.

What kind of events have they attended or expressed interest?  Is anything of that sort on the calendar?  It’s a perfect opportunity to make a reminder touch—email or phone call, as most appropriate.

Any contact, whether it is personal note on an invitation or an extra calendar delivered with a few items of particular interest circled makes the donor feel special and the organization stand out as one that cares about its donors.

Your Efficiency
For any organization to thrive, there must be many donors. But, it is unlikely that you can invent a unique method to connect to each donor.  Rather, create a template for inviting individuals to events by email, and personalize a few sentences for each prospect.  Sit down with a stack of names and interests as well as a calendar and spend an hour doing a high tech, high touch emailing to 30 major donors.

You know your organization best so you will have to figure out how to cover the range of touches for each type of prospect.

The Pay-Off
The ‘pay-off’ will result from a true understanding of motivations behind each individual’s philanthropy. It may not happen this month, but your continued study of the donor as well as your patience and continuity will reward you down the line.