No More Assumptions: How Donor Development Strategies Work

The cornerstone of any successful fundraising operation is implementing an effective donor development strategy. Donor development strategies are also known as donor cultivation strategies and involve moving potential donors through a series of phases until they donate. Goals and actions, which are designed to move donors from one stage to the next, are assigned to an individual donor. To make a complicated concept simple, donor cultivation is basically strategic relationship building and maintenance.

There are four major stages involved in donor cultivation. I talk more about each one below. 

Stage 1: Identification and Research

During this stage, you need to identify potential donors and determine how much to ask for.

You can split prospect research into two segments:

1. Projects

Figure out which projects you want to raise funds for. Determine why the projects are important to your organization and how they might appeal to donors. This will help inform your efforts as you make your way through the rest of the process.

2. Supporters

Find wealthy donors who might be willing to support important projects; this is alternatively called prospect research. There are a variety of different resources you can use for researching prospects including your existing donor database, rich lists, the Internet, subscribed databases and government managed resources.

When conducting prospect research, make sure you get as much information as possible. This information will help you as you move further along in your donor development strategy.

Stage 2: Cultivation

Cultivation is about establishing the initial relationship with your prospect. Your cultivation strategy will be based on the information you gather during the research phase.

Cultivation involves asking questions like:

  • What donor level is this potential donor (Minor, mid-level or major)?

  • Who will be the prospect manager (the person assigned to building the relationship)?

  • How should the prospect manager make contact?

  • Which projects should I solicit a donation for? How do I inform my prospect about these projects?

  • How will I strengthen the relationship between the prospects and the organization?

Cultivation means building a relationship with your prospect before you ask for a major gift.

Phase 3: Solicitation

Phase three involves asking for your major gift.

You can use a variety of different mediums when soliciting a donation. The medium you choose should depend on factors like donor-level and communication preferences.


Phase 4: Donor Stewardship

Implementing a good donor development strategy takes hard work. It is an iterative process that needs to be analyzed and revised. But it’s also been shown to increase the amount of money that you’ll raise. Once you put the strategy in place and work to tweak it so that it’s working well, you will have developed a well-oiled fundraising machine, guaranteed to help you meet your fundraising targets.

Liked our article on donor development strategies? Don’t miss the latest tips, tricks and fundraising best practices.


More Resources

3 Awesome Donor Stewardship Ideas That Will Help You Raise More (Read Time: 2.5 mins)

Donor Stewardship and The Power Of Being Human (Read Time: 2.5 mins)

How To Fix Your Donor Retention Problems So You Can Raise 200% More? (Read Time: 3 mins)



Image Cred: Image 1, Maggie Mongan; Image 2, Dayna Bateman; Image 3: Victor Bezrukov;