Cultivate Donor Relationships

9 Ways to Cultivate Donor Relationships to Increase Recurring Revenue

Donor engagement is critical to your organization’s financial health

How do your board members feel about fundraising? (Oh no, we can feel you tensing up already. Take a deep breath and read on.) 

Some of them, no doubt, are skittish about it, fearful of “making the ask.” 

But you can bet your sweet bippy they’d be happy to reach out to people who’ve already donated – just to say thanks. That makes them the hero, helps them feel useful, and puts them in the spotlight without having the pressure of having to ask for money. 

It’s a key part of cultivating donor relationships! 

And that makes board members happy. Plus – and this is the key – such personal attention from your organization’s leadership makes donors happy and leaves them feeling appreciated, as well. 

You’ll also find more of our tips in our free, downloadable gift to you, “9 Ways to Cultivate Donor Relationships,” at the end of this article! 




What Does It Mean to Cultivate Donor Relationships? 

Donor Cultivation vs. Donor Stewardship

There are two phases of building donor relationships. The first is donor cultivation. And the second is donor stewardship. 

Each of these phases plays a large part in overall donor relationships! But how do they differ from one another? 


Donor Cultivation:

Donor cultivation deals with potential supporters and lapsed supporters. For those who have never contributed in one way or another, they need to be warmed up to your nonprofit. 

They need to know what you do, how you do it, and why it matters. 

As far as donors who have contributed in the past, but haven’t since then, they need to be warmed up to your nonprofit all over again. 

That’s what donor cultivation is all about! It’s about either answering those key questions about your nonprofit. Or it’s about reminding past supporters of those answers, again. 

Usually, the early stages of your digital marketing for nonprofits strategy take care of answering these three questions. 

However, your nonprofit can go above and beyond to create a personalized donation experience for potential supporters, too! 


Donor Stewardship:

On the other side, you have donor stewardship. This primarily involves further developing and nurturing donor relationships after they’ve made a contribution. 

Supporters want to know a couple of things when they make a donation to your nonprofit: 

  1. They want to know that they’re truly helping and involved in your mission.
  2. They want to know they’re not just another checkbook to fill the pockets of board members. 

That’s why donor stewardship is so important when it comes to cultivating donor relationships. Stewardship is how you nurture those supporters so they know they’re appreciated. 


How to Get Started Nurturing Donor Relationships in 4 Steps:

Nurturing donor relationships is key to bringing in both new donors and recurring gifts. 

It costs far less to keep your existing donors than to find new ones. Nurturing donor relationships helps to increase giving levels and improves donor retention. Both will help you to raise more money so your nonprofit can do more good work.

Here’s how to get started with the nurturing process: 


1. Map Out Your Donor Cultivation and Donor Stewardship Phases: 

The first thing you’re going to want to do is note that there are two main phases of any donor relationship nurturing plan.

There’s the donor cultivation phase. And there’s the donor stewardship phase. Your nurturing plan should incorporate both of them! 

It’s a great idea to map out your ideal donor’s journey. Where do they find you? How do they interact with your nonprofit before making their first contribution? 

What do they do after they make their contribution? How do they continue to interact with you? 

Knowing all of those steps is great for the next step in your nurturing plan: 


2. Think of How You Market Your Nonprofit Organization: 

Where do you show up to promote your nonprofit organization? And how do those spaces intertwine with how your ideal donor interacts with your nonprofit? 

Jot those two things down so you can find ways to create a more personalized donor cultivation experience for them. 

For example, let’s say your ideal donor finds your nonprofit through a Google search. They land on your website and peruse it for a moment. And they decide before they donate, they want to jump on your nonprofit email list. 

And you consistently use your email marketing platform to send out newsletters and updates to everyone on your list! 

That’s a great opportunity to create a more personalized experience for your potential supporters. Create a personalized email template that drips out to new subscribers that simply says, “Thank you for being here!” 

A simple action like this goes a long way for donor cultivation! And notice, you haven’t even had to ask for any money yet. 


3. Consider What’s Doable for Your Nonprofit: 

You don’t have to move mountains to nurture donor relationships. Even small steps do great things for both cultivation and donor stewardship. 

So don’t stretch yourself too thin, thinking that you need to make major strides to either convert prospects into supporters or to convert donors into recurring donors. 

Your nonprofit should only consider doing what your team is capable of. For example, you might have the best intentions of sending out a personalized, handwritten letter to every single donor you have. 

But, your nonprofit typically generates 300 donors in a month. And it’s a team of one who’s writing the thank you notes. 

Be realistic in your donor cultivation and stewardship goals! If you want to write a handwritten thank you note, but it’s not possible, then find a doable alternative. Send out personalized thank you emails, instead!


4. Realize It’s a Nonprofit Team Effort:

What’s that old saying? It takes a village? 

That’s the truth here, too! Creating a community of supporters who want to give time and time again doesn’t happen overnight. And it can’t happen if you don’t have a team backing you. 

Remember that this relationship is between your donor and your entire organization. So as you cultivate relationships, introduce them to multiple members of the nonprofit organization. 

Let them hear from the board of directors. Let them hear from those who are working out in the field for your mission. Let them hear from your volunteers. 

Showcase the entirety of your organization! Not just one person behind the Instagram DMs. 

Doing so works to build the trust and overall relationship between your donor and your organization. And it does wonders for letting your donor feel as though they’re a part of a community doing a world of amazing things. 


3 Quick Ideas to Nurture Donor Relationships

Now that you have a plan in place to nurture donor relationships, it’s time to come up with excellent ideas to help you do so. 

Here are 3 quick ways you can nurture donor relationships: 


1. Make Thank You Calls to Steward Donors

Enlisting your board members in making thank-you calls is a win-win way to deepen donor engagement, which, as you know, is absolutely critical to the financial health of your organization. 


2. Engage with Supporters on Social Media

If you spend a large portion of your nonprofit marketing strategy on social media platforms, then use those to your advantage! 

When someone follows you on social media, send a quick DM introducing your nonprofit to them. You can even have a pre-templated message so you don’t have to re-type it every time someone follows.

If a supporter comments on your posts, be sure to reply to them! That goes a long way for donor cultivation. Especially now that social media is starting to become more popular and less personal. Show them you still care that they’re following and supporting you! 


3. Send Video Introductions in Your Emails

Every so often, you can send a video introduction or some other kind of video content in your monthly newsletter. 

This is a great way to show your donors that they’re building a relationship with your entire organization. One video newsletter might be from the board of directors. Another might be highlighting an amazing volunteer. 

Either way, give them insight into all aspects of your organization! 

You can also find more of our tips in our free, downloadable gift to you, “9 Ways to Cultivate Donor Relationships.” For more ideas, just download the free infographic. 

We’re so happy to have you as part of the Nonprofit Library family, and we’re looking forward to sharing our rich cache of free resources with you.


Thanks for being here!

– Your friends at NonprofitLibrary


P.S. NonprofitLibrary is a free resource of products, services and software demonstrations without the sales and marketing pressure. Browse our library and view live and on-demand video demonstrations and we will never share your information with the organization unless you opt in because you are authentically interested to learn more!

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