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Nonprofit Strategies

5 donor cultivation strategies to increase recurring donations

Create relationships with supporters using 5 tried-and-true donor cultivation strategies. Free tools to boost first-time donations, recurring donations, and donor retention rate.

Kylie Davis
September 22, 2023
Nerd Mr Butter

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In the for-profit sector, experts from RAIN Group state it takes an average of eight touches to make a sale. You can use the same logic to land a first-time donation from a potential supporter.

A first-time donation does not happen automatically. Instead, you need to persuade new donors to give through donor cultivation. Throughout the cultivation process, you’ll learn more about potential supporters, teach them about your mission, and create a content strategy that guides them toward making their first contribution.

Below, we offer tips to transform audience members into first-time donors. In addition, we’ll give you guidance on how to transform one-time donors into recurring supporters, helping to boost your donor retention rate.

What is donor cultivation, anyway?

Donor cultivation is any and all interactions between your organization and a potential donor prior to your first ask. It’s a way of educating, guiding, and ultimately creating a connection with a prospect to entice them to make their first gift.

The purpose of donor cultivation is to create a relationship with potential supporters.

Donor cultivation is also one of the major stages of a moves management plan, which is the process of guiding prospective donors from a general awareness of your organization to a deep commitment to your cause. By learning about each prospect—including their communication preferences, values, and interests—you can tailor your outreach strategy to encourage audience members to make their first contribution.

The right donor cultivation plan won’t just increase your first-time donations. Building relationships with prospective donors should, ideally, boost your donor retention rate. By expressing gratitude, connecting with donors on a personal level, and explicitly sharing how their contribution makes an impact, you can turn a one-time gift into a recurring donation.

Donor cultivation vs stewardship 🤔

As previously stated, donor cultivation is everything a nonprofit does to connect with a prospective donor prior to their first donation. Donor stewardship, on the other hand, refers to the steps your organization takes after a donor gives a gift to ensure you secure another one.

5 donor cultivation ideas to transform potential supporters into recurring donors

Donor cultivation should hold a central role within any stewardship plan. To help build long-standing, deep-rooted donor relationships, follow these strategies for cultivating donors.

1. Get to know your potential donors 👯

Here’s the number one mistake a nonprofit organization can make during the donor cultivation process: thinking it’s a one-way relationship.

The purpose of donor cultivation isn’t just for potential supporters to get to know your organization—it’s a chance for you to get to know them.

Discover what drives them, what causes they’re passionate about, and even what their preferred communication methods are. Gather data about each member of your audience, seeing if you can notice similarities amongst its members.

Finally, use these common themes to develop marketing personas that you can leverage within your outreach strategy.

To accomplish all the above, you’ll need:

  • Nonprofit CRM 📊 You need a CRM (contact relationship management) system in which you can store and track supporter data. Fortunately, Givebutter offers the world’s first free CRM built exclusively for nonprofits.
  • Custom filters ✅ Using Givebutter’s nonprofit CRM, you can set custom filters to sort and filter contacts by certain criteria—whether it’s demographics, major gift capacity, location, event attendance, past gift amount, or past activities.

2. Engage with each new supporter 💃

Remember when we said it could take eight touch points to entice a supporter to make their first donation? Here’s where those interactions come in.

Now that you’ve collected data on your audience, it’s time to implement a donor engagement strategy. You can interact with potential donors in any number of ways, including inviting them to fundraising events or volunteer opportunities, placing them in an email marketing campaign, scheduling in-person meetings, or engaging with them on social media.

To help implement your outreach strategy, leverage the following tools:

  • Personalized email blasts 💌 Create personalized, outbound emails to educate your supporters on your mission, values, and how you use donor dollars. Consider placing them within an email nurture campaign to move them throughout the donor cultivation cycle.
  • SMS messaging 📱 Research shows that texting has a whopping open rate of 99%, making it an excellent channel for donor outreach. Givebutter offers free outbound text blasts so you can interact with your supporters, invite them to fundraising events, and even thank them for their first donation.

3. Rally your current donor base 🎉

Current donors, volunteers, board members, and even staff members can be invaluable when converting audience members into repeat donors. Many people will act based on a recommendation from a friend—whether it’s making a purchase or donating to charity.

⭐️ Translation: It’s highly likely that your current donor base can sway people in their network to make a first-time contribution.

Implement a peer-to-peer campaign to help reach new supporters. Encourage current volunteers or donors to bring a friend to fundraising events, reserve a table at a gala, or even bring family members to a volunteer event.

To implement all the above, use these tools:

  • Peer-to-peer texting 💬 Encourage current supporters to text their friends and loved ones about a current fundraising campaign, thereby broadening your network. Givebutter empowers P2P fundraisers to do this for free, right from their team fundraising page.
  • One-click social sharing ⚡️ Invite supporters to share your current fundraising initiatives on their respective social channels to generate more interest for your cause. With Givebutter, supporters can post your fundraiser to popular social media platforms directly from the campaign page or immediately after donating.

4. Keep the conversation moving 🔇

Remember, a potential donor might not convert after a single interaction. Therefore, you need to keep the conversation moving, whether through social media interactions, sending valuable content, launching a direct mail campaign, placing phone calls, or getting face-to-face time at organization events.

Each person absorbs information differently, so try to spread your outreach campaign across multiple channels. Try to leverage a combination of email, SMS, and social media to connect with your audience.

Ideas for engaging potential donors include:

  • Send with video 🎥 Create a personalized video that you can send to your supporter base. You can record a message from your founder or even interview current volunteers.
  • Design with Canva 🎨 Givebutter’s Canva integration allows you to easily create eye-catching, branded templates for social media, email, fundraising pages, and other platforms. Use this tool to create a seamless, branded experience across your multi-channel marketing campaign.

5. Make your ask 🙏

Now that you’ve built a foundation with potential supporters, it’s time to make your ask. When it comes time for donor solicitation, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for supporters to make a contribution.

Have a campaign page ready to go filled with text, videos, and an active supporter feed outlining every detail of your fundraising efforts. Embed a donation form on your website and keep your social media channels up-to-date with campaign updates.

In addition:

  • Accept all payment methods 💸 Accepting a variety of payment methods is one of the easiest ways to increase donations. Fortunately, Givebutter allows supporters to give however they wish—including through Apple Pay, Google Pay, Venmo, text-to-donate, or even by mailing in a check.
  • Celebrate campaign milestones 🎉 Keep donors up-to-date on how their contributions make a big impact in your community. Automatically published milestones within your supporter feed can help accomplish just that.

Launch your donor cultivation efforts with Givebutter

Implementing a donor cultivation strategy is the best way to attract new supporters.

Donor cultivation is the process of learning about, engaging with, and ultimately converting your audience into recurring supporters. Building relationships isn’t easy. You’ll need to research your audience, track behaviors, engage with potential donors, and follow up after each interaction.

Fortunately, Givebutter offers the tools necessary to accomplish all the above—including the ability to accept recurring donations on any giving form.

Future-proof your fundraising with recurring donations

Givebutter is the modern, always-free fundraising platform built with donors in mind. With top-rated fundraising features, nonprofit marketing tools, and a built-in CRM system, Givebutter helps bring out the changemaker in all of us.

Ready to see how Givebutter can launch your donor stewardship strategy? Set up your free Givebutter account to get started.

Get started
Set up your peer-to-peer fundraiser for free in just a few minutes →

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