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  Cultivation of Potential Donors

A well cultivated prospect is one who knows your mission, believes in it and is convinced that your can fulfill it. Well cultivated prospects are the ones most likely to give to your organization.

In last month's newsletter we discussed how non-profits find potential donors. Obviously, just compiling a list of the individuals who might be motivated to contribute financially in support of the work of your organization is not enough. We talked about the need to build a relationship with potential donors and that when a significant and mutually beneficial relationship has been established you will have earned the right or permission to ask that person for a gift.

So how do you develop these wonderful relationships with total strangers? First, if you followed the process of discovering or creating linkages to your prospects, they won't be strangers to your organization or programs. These are people who already know something about what you do and why you do it, either because of direct involvement as a volunteer or client or because they know someone who is directly involved.

Your next job is to cultivate that prospect. Cultivation is labor and time intensive. You have to spend the time getting to know your prospects and give them opportunities to know you better. This may involve intensive, ongoing orientation programs, site visits, open houses, etc., where prospective donors or volunteers are invited to 'look behind the curtain.' Let them see what you are doing by visiting your site(s), meeting board and staff members or active volunteers or by meeting and getting to know some of your clients or recipients of your programs.

At these events, have someone present who can answer their questions honestly and completely. If you are having trouble meeting some program goals or need staff and/or equipment to improve service deliver, you should let the prospect know about it. Solicit their input on the problems or issues you are facing. They may be able to offer solutions to your problems that you haven't thought of. Simply by asking, you are helping to develop that mutually beneficial relationship that will give you permission to ask for a gift at a later time.

You do not want to ask for a financial gift during a cultivation event. You do want to provide an easy and simple way for the prospect to contact you again. At the end of the event, offer to hand out volunteer applications that can be taken home and returned later or a card to be filled out and returned requesting to be put on your organization's newsletter mailing list. Pass out copies of past newsletters or annual reports that include your contact information should the prospect want to call a board or staff member for more information or to ask questions later.

The next move is up to the prospects. Assuming that during your cultivation event you have done an adequate job of telling them about your organization and have provided an easy way for them to contact you, you simply have to wait. If you do hear from a prospect, you need to respond quickly and positively to their request for more information or provide a fairly immediate opportunity for them to volunteer, or become involved in some other way, with your organization.

If you do not receive a response within thirty days, you can invite the prospect to another but different type of event. If they show up, you have another chance to get them involved with your organization. If not, they are no longer an active prospect.

Once a prospect has initiated a follow-up contact with your organization, you have earned the right to ask them for a gift. We will deal with developing and structuring the ask in our next newsletter article.