Major Gift Development

The Art and Science of Major Gifts Cultivation

Thanks for tuning in to the third post in my series on major gift development. We started by defining the concept of a major gift and then moved on to the identification and qualification of major gift prospects. Now we are ready to tackle cultivation. Remember, cultivation is the process by which we turn a prospect, or a non-donor, into a donor. It involves the building of a relationship with people who believe in what you do and engaging them in efforts to support your mission. It is important not to skip from identification directly to solicitation because this can be offensive to the prospect and quickly turn him/her off to your cause. It also removes the entire relationship building experience from your process and will likely result in a reduced gift.


So how do we begin to build that relationship?

Cultivation is about linking the donor’s philanthropic interests to the organization’s needs. One simply cannot do this effectively without building a relationship. And relationship building involves asking lots of questions. In order to create opportunities to get to know our prospects, ask questions, and build a plan around both engagement, and eventually solicitation, we generally build a ‘moves management’ calendar or plan.

Moves management is a series of contacts over time that aim to move a prospect from awareness to commitment. This process can be used for both prospects (cultivation) and donors (stewardship). The goal of moves management is to create multiple touch points with prospects and donors throughout the year: to build the relationship; keep donors/prospects engaged; educate about your organization’s progress; and be able to move prospects and donors into new giving opportunities.

Why is moves management important?

Creating a moves management plan forces you to intentionally plan your contacts with a prospect so that you know when to contact the prospect and why. It helps to coordinate the schedules of other staff/board members whom you may want to include in the cultivation or stewardship process. Having a schedule for contacting prospects and donors helps you to organize your time and not lose track of prospects who are important to your organization.

How do I manage this information?

Enter planned contacts in your database and schedule reminders. After significant meetings and phone calls, enter notes about the conversation in the database for future reference. Start with ten to fifteen top prospects. Increase the number as you are able. Each year, review your moves management plans and revise as needed for the coming year.

What does a sample plan look like?

You might organize your cultivation plan by month or by type of contact. The plan is based, in part, on the unique interests of the donor. Think about how s/he likes to communicate. Is this someone who responds well to email, texts or phone calls? Do they like to meet in person? Do they like to be involved with hands-on volunteer opportunities? We suggest at least 2 in-person meetings per year if possible. Don’t forget to add “low touch”, easy to implement opportunities like sending photos, emails, articles or quick notes to your plan. Not every move is a meeting and the plan is not meant to limit your contact. For example, if you see an article that you think would interest a donor, feel free to send it any time.

In two weeks we will begin talking about the solicitation of major gift prospects. In between now and then, my colleague, Judy Gadiel, will share some thoughts with you about her grant writing seminar (February 22) at Spertus Institute in Chicago. Until then, feel free to share thoughts and questions about major gifts cultivation below, and please contact us with any questions about your campaign. Enjoy our freebie this week – a sample moves management plan!