A great way to cultivate major donors is to nominate them for as many awards or recognition as you can. The accolades might be given by your organization, but usually, your community will have lots of luncheons and dinners honoring different types of service.
For the last 30 years I have been nominating people for the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP) National Philanthropy Day Luncheon, first in New Orleans and now in Asheville, NC. Most mid-to major cities will have an AFP chapter who holds a luncheon. Plus, you don’t even have to be a member of AFP to nominate someone and the nomination might take all of three hours to complete.
BUT WHAT IF THEY DON’T WIN?!?!?!? Surprising, as long as you are upfront with them about their chances of winning your response should be a positive one. I’ll put it this way, I have never had anything but real gratitude from people. Actually, one of my donors I nominated for the AFP luncheon this year invited me to lunch yesterday just to catch up. At the last minute he realized he would be out of town for the luncheon, they usually have to be there to win, so he won’t win. Nevertheless, he was grateful and we had a wonderful time together.
Likewise, I watch the newspaper and social media to see what other awards are possible. Over the years I have tried many different ways to recognize my donors but the results are always the same—people are grateful to receive the acknowledgement.
Finding a way to connect with your donor that does not involve a solicitation is always golden. That is why nominating someone for an award is one way of engaging with them, but it is not the only way. For example, for the last 20 years, I have been a member of a major civic club. We have a talk on a community issue each week, and I love to invite my donors. Most of the time, they will insist on paying their way, but I always keep a budget line item for such expenses. I know what topics interest my donors and invite them to a program I know they will enjoy.
The rule of thumb is:
Treat donors like a really good friend, engaging with them in various ways outside of solicitations. This just might spur a good upgrade to their usual give the next time you do ask them for a contribution.
Alex Comfort, CFRE