To cultivate: it means to prepare for or foster growth, to encourage and to seek society or make friends. Cultivation is usually associated with gardening, but it is a fundamental principle of fundraising.
A cultivated donor is one who is more engaged, involved and whose level of support continues to grow.
Let’s look at three aspects of cultivation: using fertile “ground,” fostering growth and making it social.
Sow in Fertile Ground: A fundraising program, like a lush garden, has to be planted in fertile ground. This means conducting the research and identifying likely supporters and the best messages and media to reach them. We’ve covered that in two previous blog posts, on research and identification.
Fostering growth: It’s a competitive world, and your organization is not the only one vying for donations.
According to the 2012 Donor Engagement Survey published by Charity Dynamics and the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN): Most donors give to more than one charity. Nearly half of the survey respondents give a majority of their annual total donation amount to the charity to which they feel most connected.
Fostering that connection is essential to your fundraising program. And one main reason people give is to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
How do you do this? Simple: talk with donors. Regular, frequent communication through multiple channels will keep your donors engaged and feeling a part of a solution to a problem they care about and want to support.
One of our clients provides a good example of cultivation. The Mile High United Way was able to recruit new donors and supporters though mobile communication and donations during it’s annual fundraising race. Following the event, they continued to use mobile to cultivate relationships with their new supporters. Through focused, regular messaging they recruited a large number of opt-ins to their mobile list and had a near 90 percent retention rate.
Robert Thompson, director of media relations for Mile High United Way, said, “Now that we have a healthy audience of mobile opt-ins, we plan to regularly talk to them, mostly storytelling about our impact in the community, links to videos [and] volunteer opportunities…”
Make it Social: Thompson hits on an important point about cultivation – engaging your supporters in all the tools (as appropriate) to keep their interest. Social Media can do that. Share your website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, eNewsletter, email blasts, with supporters so you can reach them through multiple channels. Just be sure to match message and method with each audience segment, as identified in your research and identification phases.
Engaging online is easy. According to the Donor Engagement Survey: “Nearly 30 percent of donors report both visiting their favorite charity’s Facebook page and liking it.”
And, according to the 2012 mGive Text Giving Survey, mobile donors report that social media networking is the second channel where they learned of text donation campaigns (following television or radio).
One idea: provide tools to make it easier for supporters, using their mobile phones, to put pre-written messages or share links into their Twitter feeds or Facebook updates.
Other ways to use social media include using apps for phones and social media like Facebook. Adding functions like “forward to a friend” to your email or on your website can also be useful.
When you have carefully cultivated your supporters and they are well-informed, engaged and feel a part of your cause, it is time to solicit. We will cover solicitation in the fourth and final part of our series on Principles of Fundraising. ###