3 ways to use data to cultivate donors
Posted January 9, 2014 by Timi Paccioretti

The ultimate goal in fundraising is for your constituents to invest in your mission. But earning them as investors requires being effective in the three Is of cultivation: Inform, Involve, and Invest. So, let’s talk about how strategic data management allows you to do this.

Inform: Communicating with your constituents and sharing with them how your mission comes alive in your organization is vital to the first “I” in cultivation. Begin by developing a comprehensive outreach strategy for all your constituents. Your data can play an important role in helping you define the messages that will be most meaningful to them. Segmenting by groups and attributes and crafting messages specific to interest and affiliation will help you be more effective in engaging constituents in the life of your organization.

Imagine that your school needs a new gym floor. Instead of sending out the same information to everyone, consider breaking your database into segments and crafting a message specific to those in each segment. Sample segments might include former student athletes, parents of current athletes, coaches, state championship team members, past Athletic Fund donors, or vendors. The better you code your constituents in your database, the better your personal outreach opportunities are.

Don’t forget to collect current and complete contact information for your constituents, including their communication preferences. It’s important to adhere to their wishes (i.e., do they prefer to be contacted only by email?). Do they wish not to receive a solicitation request via a phone call? Be sure to capture this data and use it when planning your outreach efforts.

Involve: Now it’s time to invite your constituents to be involved in the life of your organization. This can take many forms: invitations, events, or activities; recruiting assistance on volunteer committees or boards; asking for advice or to speak to your organization’ members. The possibilities are endless. There’s no need to add a bunch of new activities to your already busy calendar; look for ways to invite your constituents to activities you are already doing. Then be sure to track these invitations in your database and document responsiveness. You will learn valuable information about your constituents that will help you further understand their interests and their willingness to be engaged with you.

Using the example above, let’s look at how segmentation can also be valuable at this stage. When inviting constituents to be engaged, consider their interests. This could be as simple as inviting vendors to a basketball game and allowing them to set up a business display. Or inviting the members of your State Championship team to a playoff game with this year’s team and coaches during halftime. You could ask a former coach to join your Athletic Committee, or invite a former team captain to give out the MVP award at your upcoming athletic banquet. During this invite stage, you are providing opportunities for them to experience your mission and interact with you, not asking them to give financially.

Invest: Ah, the moment you’ve been waiting for! Your constituent has been informed about your organization, its needs, and how they can be involved in its mission. They’ve begun to be actively engaged in the life of your organization. Now, they are ready to be asked to invest in your mission by making a gift. And, yes, they do need to be asked. Be careful that you do not get stuck in the “inform and invite” stages and forget about the ask. You’ve been doing a great job cultivating them, now use the knowledge you’ve gained (and documented) to ask for a gift in the most personal way possible. For ideas on developing a comprehensive appeal strategy, check out our recent video on the Six Steps to a Successful Appeal.

Now that you’ve gained a new donor, remember that proper stewardship will help ensure they remain an active donor. Acknowledging gifts promptly and personally and sharing how the gift will benefit your organization are paramount. In fact, Penelope Burke notes that 84 percent of donors said they would give again to your organization if they received a personalized thank you that acknowledged specifically what their gift benefitted.

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