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Thursday, April 6, 2017

"Do I Have To?" No One Really Likes Your Donor Cultivation Events

I heard the most refreshingly honest thing from a significant donor the other day.

"Please don't invite me to another dinner party."

As a charitable sector, we plan a lot of donor cultivation events. We know we need to connect with our donor base. Inevitably, we think of things from OUR perspective: it would be so much easier if we could organize a small event and invite our best prospects. That way we can talk to all of them at once!

Have you ever stopped to consider that your donors may not like these events and come in spite of that?

Think about it. You've been invited to an event where you don't know if you'll know anyone, you don't know if you'll like anyone, and you might get stuck with someone that talks your ear off about something you don't care about, or worse, don't agree with. The food will be lackluster, the drinks will be cheap, and you'll lose an entire evening over it.

So let's think about this from the donor's perspective. What does the donor want?

Customized attention
It doesn't need to be one-on-one, per se, but your cultivation activity does need to reflect the interests of your donor or prospective donor. Ask them what they want to do to deepen their engagement. For some, it actually might be a dinner party. But for most, it will involve some kind of customized VIP experience.

Don't say "no" for them
Maybe you think that your idea of how to deepen the relationship is too much time for them, too arduous a request, too daring, or too tame. Don't automatically toss out the idea--ask the donor what they think. You never know when they might say, "Wow, I've always wanted to do that!"

Respect their time
That said, respect how much time they have to give to you. If they can only commit an hour, create an experience for an hour. It's better to schedule a return experience than leave them bored and frustrated by how much time this took.

Have them truly experience your mission
Whatever you do, make sure it connects somehow with your mission. In fact, that may be why your donor doesn't want to attend your reception or dinner party: it's so removed from what they think your mission is, that it's of no interest.

Listen
Above all, listen to their needs. It doesn't matter what YOU want to do, if it's not what the donor wants.



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