Presented by Jonathan Poisner
For The Databank
ABOUT JONATHAN POISNER
Strategic and Campaign Planning
Author: Why Organizations Thrive:
Lessons from the Front Lines for
Nonprofit Executive Directors
WHY THIS WEBINAR?
You’ve secured a donation from an individual.
What do you need to do to secure future donations,
and preferably larger future donations?
STEWARDSHIP = CULTIVATION
For purposes of this webinar, I will use the terms
stewardship and cultivation interchangeably.
I know there are consultants who differentiate
BAD DEFINITIONS OF
From Kim Klein:
Cultivation is where you go and visit a rich person three or
four times without talking about money, and then you
finally bring it up.
Cultivation is like going on a date. You want to have sex,
and your job is to get the other person to want it too.
Cultivation is like gardening – you feed the donor a lot of
manure, water with flattery, and pick the fruit as soon as
Cultivation is what I tell myself I am doing when I am
actually procrastinating about asking for the gift.
GOOD DEFINITION OF
Here’s Kim Klein’s good definition:
Cultivation is what you do to build the loyalty and
commitment of donors, with a focus on:
Helping them better understand the work you do
and its importance/success, and/or
By having them feel appreciated by the
organization as an individual, not a checkbook
ONE MORE ASPECT TO
Strengthening the donor’s personal relationship
with one or more individual leaders (staff or
board) of the organization.
SO IN SUMMARY
The “legs” to the cultivation stool . . .
1. Helping donors better understand the work you
do and its importance/success.
2. Making donors feel appreciated by the
organization as an individual, not a checkbook.
3. Strengthening personal relationships between
the donor and organizational leaders.
If you’re setting out to do anything related to
cultivation, if it doesn’t clearly do one of these
things, it may be worth doing, but not for cultivation
PRECURSOR TO CULTIVATION
Timely thank you!
Particularly important with more
Often more than just one:
Handwritten note after personal
Separate formal thank you from the
organization after receipt of gift.
THREE LEVELS OF
Beyond the basics
Advanced – Highly personalized
Most cultivation of your general
supporters can be accomplished via:
General communications about the
work of the organization (email and/or
print newsletter, etc.)
Opportunities to engage in the work
(e.g. volunteer asks, events to attend,
actions to take online, surveys to ask
their opinion, etc.).
BASIC CULTIVATION FOR
For major donors, you need to step it up a notch:
Personalized or semi-personalized insider
Both to share more information. And to help them
feel more “special.”
Once or twice per year.
Events with other major donors
Both to build a sense of community (so they don’t
feel like an ATM) and to offer opportunities to
strengthen personal relationships.
BEYOND THE BASICS
Listing in an Annual Report or a more permanent display
Awards or Certificates
Learning opportunities to better understand the
Opportunities to engage with leadership – 2 way
Social opportunities (annual picnic or an
organizational night at a sporting event)
(FOR TOP 10-30 DONORS)
One on one meetings without asks (coffee,
lunch, personal tours of facilities, hikes)
Create a “Google News” alert and email
them if they’re in the news (in a good way).
Or email them if you hear of them doing
something important via another channel.
Engage them at the strategic level.
Ask them to serve on a committee or task force.
Have them provide input at a strategic planning
‘focus group’ or similar listening session.
Birthday cards or other small gestures
Getting yourself in situations where you can
get to know them outside the context of
your organization (e.g. arrange to sit with
them at a table at another organization’s
As you do this: Introduce your top donors to at
least one other board member and/or staff person
(so the personal relationship isn’t entirely on a single
person within your organization)
Successful cultivation/stewardship means . . .
You do timely thank yous
You have basic cultivation in place for general
members and major donors
You’ve moved beyond the basics with at least
some additional cultivation activities
And you’ve set in motion highly personal
cultivation for a top set of 10-30 donors.
WHERE DOES “STORY” FIT?
After all, the title of this webinar was “telling your
story to make a difference.”
Stories are key to the first leg of cultivation: “helping
the donor better understand the work you do and its
Stories are more engaging to the audience.
Stories can be more emotionally compelling.
Stories are better for teaching.
TWO KEY TYPES OF STORIES
The “Why you Exist” Story
“Solution” or “Success” Stories
SO WHAT’S A STORY?
Not a sequence of events
Hero off balance or world not as it should be,
Hero sets out to fix things,
Hero faces barrier(s),
Hero overcomes barriers,
Alternative structure: hero fails to overcome
barriers, but learns a lesson.
OR MORE SIMPLY:
If you’re looking at something and it’s a story,
you should be able to identify:
Who’s your hero (or heroes)?
What does your hero want?
What’s in their way?
How does the hero get past that?
CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD
Concise. 1-3 minutes. Only go beyond that if
you’re an exceptional story teller or it’s an
Include details that paint a picture, so if the
listener closed their eyes they can visualize
Told in the language of the typical American
audience (6-8th grade reading level). Only higher
than that for specific audiences.
Engages emotions. Has to involve something or
someone the listener cares about.
WHY YOU EXIST STORY
The founding of the organization, or
The general problem being addressed
Don’t underestimate the importance of
repeatedly sharing this story.
You want your donor to have heard it enough that
they have internalized it – so that they could tell
their friends if asked.
WHY YOU EXIST EXAMPLES
Matthew Shepard Foundation
Sauvie Island Center
Oregon League of Conservation Voters
They should show the problem from the “Why
you Exist” story being addressed.
They shouldn’t be focused on statistics. Most
stories are better without. And if you do use
one, no more than one in any story.
People are more interested in a success story
about a single individual than masses.
“Charlie the asthmatic can now breathe thanks to
cleaner air” works better than 1000s of asthmatics can
now breathe thanks to cleaner air.”
The success does not have to be earth shattering.
SUCCESS STORY EXAMPLES
Wallowa Land Trust
Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuge
Write up your stories.
Plan for the details.
What beyond the basics
What top 10-30
Take it into account when
evaluating staff performance.
DON’T FORGET TO MAKE THE
NEXT SET OF ASKS
Cultivation will help you move $50
donors to $200 and $250 donors to
But only if you get around to the next