Many of us have close friends that we talk to and engage socially, there is a responsibility in maintaining healthy relationships with those we love. Relationships within our family are also maintained by communication and building memories. Donor relationships must be approached with the same compassion, patience and understanding as family and friends. You may be thinking, I’m not THAT close to my donors, and why would I be?! If you desire someone to give you their financial support and time, you have to be willing to actively build and maintain a relationship with them. Donor cultivation and stewardship needs communication and engagement to survive and thrive. Period. Cornell College describes donor cultivation as building good relationships with those who may have an interest in what you do, and describes stewardship as maintaining those cultivated relationships. Beanstalk Fundraising and Community Relations (BFCR) has created a list of helpful do’s and don’ts that will assist growing non-profit’s in creating/maintaining lasting relationships that can enhance impact and create lasting relationships.
Do’s of non-profit cultivation and stewardship:
1. DO create a system of thanking your donors and collaborators. This can be via a hand-written note, thank you letter, or email. I prefer a hand-written note, this simply displays sincerity and that you took the time to personally thank the donor. Many larger organizations have a development director or team that conducts these functions but they can’t be ignored in an organization of any size. While building a donor base in a smaller non-profit you must thank everyone that comes into contact with your organization (donors, volunteers, collaborators, event guests etc.).
2. DO understand the importance of compiling donor/collaborator life milestones. Remember I mentioned, donor cultivation and stewardship is no different than maintaining relationships with friends or family, and I’m serious! I like to maintain a database of all my donors and collaborators birthdays, anniversaries, and I even note important topics they might have referenced (sending articles, or anecdotal stories about a previous discussed topic, etc.).
3. DO attend events and other functions promoted or offered by your donors and collaborators organizations. As an organization that is seeking funding from a particular organization or group, you must be visible and support causes in your field of interest. Example: Arts Event at the Museum to support youth art programs, sponsored by the Arts Plus Foundation.
Don’ts of non-profit cultivation and stewardship:
1. DON’T make promises you can’t keep. Sometimes non-profits want to secure funding so badly, they will may make commitments to donors that they don’t have the capacity, manpower, or expertise to deliver. This can get very dangerous, receiving funding always comes with responsibility. Non-profits must be prepared for the responsibility of a donation, which in most cases includes a direct duty to enrich the lives of those the organization serves.
2. DON’T try to engage a donor without proper research. Google can be your BEST friend in some cases. If you want to know more about a potential donor or grantor, do your research! Take time to understand the funding priorities of your potential donors and other organizations they may have funded in the past. There is software that may be able to assist in this process as well (this can be expensive). Research is a simple step that will save you time, resources and cultivating a donor that may not be able to fund your agency.
3. DON’T underestimate the effect of a positive donor relationship. If you are able to properly cultivate donors and secure funding it may open the door for other positive philanthropic
relationships. The world of philanthropy is smaller than you may think! Donors (foundations, corporations, etc.), keep up with innovative programming and those non-profits making a mark on the community, so educate yourself and your employees on the importance of maintaining relationships.
Cultivation and stewardship is an important component to non-profit sustainability, and understanding the do’s and don’ts put you ahead of the game. As you engage potential funders and collaborators, don’t forget this simple list and that philanthropic relationships have to be nurtured to GROW.
For more information on non-profit advisory help contact Beanstalk Fundraising and Community Relations (BFCR) at 832.917.4064, www.beanstalkfcr.org, or on our social media at @BeanstalkFCR. Managing Advisor-Owner Christina Payne, MBA @chrissyjpayne, Advisor Courtney Taylor, MBA @Taylor_Court and VP of Operations Brettne Hardeman, MBA @victoryb.