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Fundraising has only gotten harder.  We have more channels than ever before to communicate with our donors.  We’re still slowly climbing out the recession.  Finally, we are inundated with a huge array of strategies, tools and options for fundraising – galas, grants, direct mail, major gifts,  peer to peer, online fundraising, crowdsourcing, social enterprise, text to give, and planned giving just to name a few!

The secret to cultivating the right donor

In all this noise it’s easy to get distracted by bright and shiny new toys.  Far too many times that bright shiny toy could be a prospect who may never give.  In fundraising, there is no silver bullet or magic formula. It comes down to knowing and nurturing the donors you have. The secret is to love the one you’re with. In reality we can spend far too much time chasing the bright shiny new prospects and not cultivating the donors we should be.

How do you know which donors to “love” and cultivate?

Many fundraisers can invest time and energy cultivating the wrong donors.  They might be individuals who are extremely well connected and influential but do not donate to you or they may be people with infinite capacity and no affinity for your cause.  To determine who should be on our portfolio you need to look at their passion for your cause and their capacity to give.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you look over your active donor portfolio:

  •  How well do you know them?
  • Do you know what your donors are passionate about?
  • What makes them give?
  • How do they prefer you communicate with them?

These behavioral and financial insights become invaluable as you look to identify the right donors to engage. If you don’t know these facts about your donors you must find out.

Once you find your the right donors… what next?

The next step is to reach out to your donors to find out more about their interests and determine how to best cultivate them.  Not every donor wants to have a more intimate relationship with your organization.  Some simply want to make a year-end gift and aren’t interested in being treated as a VIP or insider.  

Your goal is to know your each donor in your portfolio so well that you can easily identify their preferences and execute a strategy based on that knowledge to achieve your fundraising goals. Knowing what your donors care about, why they give to you and what their larger interests is the only way to develop your strategy for cultivating them.

What are some ways you’re identifying the right prospects to cultivate?

Note: This blog post originally appeared on the Greenlights blog on August 5, 2013.