4 New Donor Cultivation Strategies to Try This Year

Building and maintaining strong relationships with your donors starts with creative donor cultivation strategies - here are four to implement this year.


To maintain strong relationships with your donors and encourage prospective donors to join your supporter community, it’s important to be creative with your donor cultivation strategies.

Donor cultivation is the process of identifying new donors for your nonprofit and building relationships that motivate them to donate toward your cause. You can also employ donor cultivation strategies for moving current donors into new giving cohorts. For example, you can leverage donor cultivation strategies to turn one-time donors into monthly recurring donors.

If you’re looking to spice up your donor cultivation strategies this year, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we cover four different donor cultivation tips you can implement to strengthen your donor relationships.

1. Become Part of a Donor’s Community

When implementing donor cultivation strategies, remember that your goal should go beyond securing a single donation. Think of your donor cultivation work as an opportunity to make your nonprofit a key part of a new donor’s identity and sense of community.

By doing so, you’ll become more than just a nonprofit they give a donation to once, but rather a cause they care about and an organization that helps them feel greater connection, meaning, and belonging—which ultimately helps with your donor retention efforts!

There are a variety of ways you can learn more about your prospective and current donors to better understand their interests and how they might already be involved with or connected to your nonprofit. You may want to:

  • See if any of their friends or family are already donors. Having a peer or familial connection to your nonprofit can help a new donor feel more trusting of your work. It can also provide them with a buddy to accompany them to your next event.
  • Look at their volunteer history. Many donors may start as volunteers. Knowing if a prospective donor currently volunteers for your nonprofit gives you a chance to thank them for their contribution and invite them to another event to keep getting to know your work. You can also look at other places prospective donors have volunteered to get a sense for whether volunteer events are a good way to engage with them. Some donors list volunteer positions on their LinkedIn profiles or may share about volunteering on their social media.
  • Check if their employer is a supporter of your cause. If a prospective donor’s workplace already donates to your nonprofit, or otherwise supports the mission you work on, this could offer opportunities to integrate yourself into that individual’s professional identity and community.
  • Review how a donor might connect with your board members, staff, or other volunteers. Your nonprofit’s team might already have key connections with potential donors through their kickball team, child’s school, Rotary Club, or any other number of ways they’re involved in the greater community. These can offer great opportunities for sparking new introductions to your cause.

In order to up your donor cultivation strategy’s effectiveness, you’ll want to get to know your donors on a personal level. Doing so helps you understand where supporting your nonprofit fits into their current sense of community and identity and can help with your messaging.

2. Communicate Often

It’s natural to fear emailing your supporters too much and causing them email fatigue. You may also worry supporters will unsubscribe if you send too many emails. However, you shouldn’t let this deter you from regular communication.

Here’s why:

  • You’re not the only nonprofit popping up in their inbox. If you send too little correspondence, you may get lost among other incoming messages. It can take repetition before a brand resonates with an individual, so you want your name and cause to show up often enough to be remembered.
  • You don’t want to keep donors in the dark on important updates. Regular, clear communication builds trust with your donors that you will let them know about your events, campaigns, and other stories in a timely manner. They’ll be able to see that you’re organized and care about their involvement.

If you’re still worried about unsubscribe rates, remember that a certain level is normal—and actually good. It can help you focus your efforts more on those who opt-in for continued updates. You can better target your messages to the supporters most passionate about your cause. You can also review average unsubscribe rates across different industries to get a sense for what is normal for your organization.

Bottom line: If you want to increase the effectiveness of your donor cultivation efforts, communicate often—but also remember to keep it personal as you do. You want your communications to feel like a good friend popping into their inbox rather than a marketing campaign.

3. Use Segmentation to Personalize Interaction

Wondering how to use automation to communicate often, while also keeping your messages personal? This is where segmentation can help your donor cultivation strategy.

Segmentation is the process of creating different cohorts of donors based on their shared interests, giving capacity, communication preferences, and more. Once you have your cohorts established, you can create messaging personalized to those groups. This keeps information relevant for your donors while streamlining the administrative side of your communications.

In addition to the automation and personalization benefits of segmenting your donors, doing so also makes it easier to track your efforts. You can see which messages are resonating better with different cohorts and also see which donor segments may need more of your focus.

Best of all, segmentation isn’t just useful for your nonprofit, it’s also good for your donors. For example, if you segment your donors by interest areas, they’re better able to scan their inbox for the information that’s most important to them. Stronger relationships can form when your segmentation allows donors to receive more updates relevant and tailored to their interests.

4. Involve Your Full Team in Cultivation Efforts

Depending on the size of your nonprofit, you likely have a team dedicated to donor cultivation, fundraising, and other development efforts. It’s important to have a point person for your donor cultivation strategy to keep things organized and track measurement toward your nonprofit’s goals. However, effective donor cultivation plans should involve every department at your nonprofit.

While some roles at your nonprofit might not immediately seem like they connect to donor cultivation, everyone can help create a culture that inspires people to give.

Here are some examples of different staff roles you might have at your nonprofit and how they can be a part of your donor cultivation strategy:

  • Volunteer Coordinators: These staff members can identify top volunteers to pass along to the development team for recognition, special event invitations, or other cultivation opportunities.
  • Direct Services Staff: Your program staff members see the impact of your work firsthand and can help gather the stories and data that your development team can use to build a case for why a donor should give.
  • Information Technology (IT) Support Staff: These staff members ensure your fundraising systems are working smoothly so donors have a positive giving experience and also help maintain your databases to track your donor cultivation efforts.
  • Finance Staff: Your finance staff can shape budgets that inform what types of asks your development team makes of prospective donors and help guide which funding opportunities might resonate the most with specific donors.
  • Marketing Coordinator: These staff can let your development team know which campaigns and other engagement activities performed best in your cultivation efforts and create more materials to drive cultivation based on that data.

In addition to their specific roles, each member of your team can participate in donor cultivation through sharing your work within their own networks, posting about your campaigns on their social media, and being a part of your brand’s community-based image.

Get Creative With Your Donor Cultivation Strategies to Grow Your Base of Supporters

Donor cultivation is an ongoing process that benefits from keeping your interactions personalized, being creative with your approach, and involving your full team.

By employing these strategies, you can help your supporters see their involvement with your nonprofit as an essential piece of their identity. In the end, donor cultivation is community building.

Ready to get started? Download our Donor Cultivation and Stewardship Plan Template to start building your organization's strategy today!

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