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
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
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.