The best cultivation technique I’ve ever found is this: If you want to do something nice for someone, don’t do it for them. Do it for someone they love.
Send their spouse a birthday card or bring over cranberry nut muffins. Sweatshirts for their kids. A gift to their newborn grandchild.
The best ever? I wrote a letter to an alumnus and told him his dad was a treasure to our institution. The guy never forgot it.
Flowers, as a thank you, a get well, or a congratulations never, ever, fail.
If your donor has an assistant, your donor spends more waking hours during the week with that assistant than he or she does with their spouse. If you take the time to cultivate a genuine, respectful relationship with the assistant you will feel your ears burning some day because that assistant will be singing your praises and there is no one your donor trusts in his or her work life more than their assistant.
Major annual donor appreciation events – classy, sincere, not “over the top” – continue to this day because they are effective.
Invite the donor or prospective donor to your organization for a tour and lunch. If need be, offer to pick them up and take them back. No better way for them to see your mission directly. And great face time.
With foundation donors, the best way to continue cultivating their interest in your organization is to let them know how you are doing at a time other than when you are asking them for money. A newspaper clipping, a press release, a “thought you would like to know” works wonders, because indeed they would like to know!
Do you remember your last birthday and how nice it felt when someone remembered you with a card or a call? Donors are like that, too.
Have the President send them a handwritten note. Find a reason.
Send donors a photo from a recent event at your organization, especially a photo with them in it!
Invite them to join you at an event at your organization; graduation, a concert, a lecture, a basketball game, a swim meet, whatever.
Invite them to join your president and a select group of other friends some morning at 8AM for coffee and a conversation intended to update them and get their thoughts.
Go visit them. And at this time of year, send your president to visit them in Arizona or Florida! Snowbirds keep score on who gets invitations to events from presidents visiting from Up North!