Creative Cultivation Techniques: Inspiring Donor Relationship Stories

donor cultivation Jul 07, 2023

In the world of nonprofit fundraising, cultivating donors is a crucial step in securing major gifts and long-term support. Today, I want to share a story from my healthcare fundraising experience that highlights creative cultivation techniques. These techniques are not limited to healthcare; they can be adapted to suit any nonprofit sector. By sharing these stories, I hope to inspire you and provide fresh ideas for cultivating donors in your organization.

Walking Towards a Meaningful Connection
In the early 2000s, during the early stages of my career, I connected with a potential major donor named Chauncey. Overcoming my initial hesitation, I made a cold call to Chauncey after sending a handwritten note as an introduction. Little did I know, he had recently undergone back surgery at the hospital where I worked.

Chauncey expressed interest in discussing our hospital, but he couldn't meet in person due to his recovery. Then, I made an unconventional offer—I would walk with him during his daily walks as per his doctor's recommendation. Every morning, I joined him for a stroll around his driveway, gradually getting to know each other. This routine continued for months, and our conversations covered a range of topics, building a strong foundation of trust and camaraderie.

During our walks, I shared updates about the hospital, and he opened up about his personal life, including the loss of his wife. Over time, I witnessed his physical improvement and saw him grow more comfortable with me. After six months of walking together, I broached the subject of making a gift request, and he agreed. To make the ask official, we arranged a lunch meeting at the hospital cafeteria.

On our way to the cafeteria, we passed through a section of the hospital under construction—a new neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Chauncey revealed that he had lost two babies at the hospital years ago, which I hadn't known until that moment. This unexpected revelation changed the direction of our conversation.

Considering his very personal connection to the NICU project, I deviated from my initial plan to ask for a general surgery donation of $250,000. Instead, I proposed supporting the new NICU. After thoughtful consideration, Chauncey agreed, explaining that this gesture would bring a sense of closure and honor the memory of his two babies, who had passed in that hospital.

Lessons Learned:
1. Overcoming fear: Sometimes, making that first contact with potential donors can be intimidating, but taking the initiative can lead to unexpected connections.
2. Shared experiences: By walking alongside Chauncey during his recovery, I created a comfortable and safe environment for building a relationship, allowing us to share personal stories and create trust.
3. Listening and adapting: Being receptive to Chauncey's personal story during our lunch meeting allowed me to pivot my ask and tailor it to his emotional connection with the new NICU.

Cultivating donors requires creativity, empathy, and adaptability. The story of my walks with Chauncey exemplifies the power of connecting on a personal level and understanding a donor's unique experiences. By embracing these principles, you can cultivate strong donor relationships in your own nonprofit, regardless of the sector you work in. 

About Mary Hackett

Mary Hackett is a vibrant and engaging powerhouse in the world of major gift expertise, with a sparkling career steeped in the intricacies of fundraising operations. Residing in the picturesque town of Bend, Oregon, Mary's professional journey is as lively and inspiring as her scenic surroundings. Her extensive experience in fundraising is marked by a unique blend of strategic insight and a contagious enthusiasm that has consistently propelled organizations to new heights of success. With a knack for connecting with people and a deep understanding of the nuances of philanthropy, Mary has become a sought-after expert in her field. Her approach to fundraising is not just about meeting targets; it's about building relationships, weaving stories, and creating impactful experiences that resonate with donors and communities alike. In Mary's world, every fundraising campaign is an adventure, filled with opportunities to make a meaningful difference while having a whole lot of fun along the way. Want to work with Mary? 

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Learn more at www.maryhackett.co