Developing Donors

Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer

Most nonprofits would really like to have more major donors to enable their nonprofit to do more of their good work in our community. But many just don’t seem to know how to go about doing that, or perhaps, don’t have the passion to execute what they think is a very scary or elusive process.

Most other forms of fundraising, like grant writing, direct mail, Email, website donations and special events do not depend on a close relationship with the donor. But getting a major gift typically results from developing a personal relationship with the donor. For most of us it is not intuitively obvious how to go about doing that in a sincere and respectful way.

Laura Fredericks has written a book “The Ask” that defines a fairly simple process for developing donors or getting new board members. It made intuitive sense to me. Here are the steps:

  1. Education: Send someone you know, or someone who has some connection with your nonprofit, information about your nonprofit and what it would like to be doing in the community if it had more funding. Do it repeatedly in different media.
  2. Involvement: Invite the person to an event, to witness some of the activities of the nonprofit, or to attend a committee or board meeting that might be of interest to them.
  3. Cultivation: Start developing a personal relationship through Emails, phone calls, luncheons, etc. to learn about their and your families, hobbies, work and other interests
  4. Inclination: Give information of how other donors are involved with your nonprofit and what they get out of it in terms of personal satisfaction and recognition. Find out what kind of things appeal to them and what they might be will to consider doing for your nonprofit.
  5. Assets: Have conversations that indicate whether this donor is in a comfortable financial situation with a significant amount of discretionary funding, and approximately how much of that goes to nonprofit charities of what kind. You might share some of your philanthropic passions and funding to make it easier for the donor to reciprocate.

When you have completed this process, you have the information to plan and make “the ask” with the confidence that the donor has the involvement, inclination and assets to give you a positive response. You can also use this process to recruit board members (where the assets are their time).

Laura’s book “gives great examples of how to make each Ask a positive experience for the asker….and for the person being asked.”

 Author:  Bob Cryer, Executive Coaches of Orange County,