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10 Steps to Cultivating a Diverse Garden of Donors, a guest post by Jennifer Vigne

March 17, 2014

Philanthropic giving is not a transactional event completed with a “click here” or “donate now” button. It does not begin or end with the Giving Challenge. The Giving Challenge is a tool to engage the community in informed giving, to bring your supporters together as ambassadors for your cause, and to showcase the opportunity for everyone to be a philanthropist.

We loved this recent post from Jennifer Vigne’s blog since it encompasses so much of the development process. We wanted to share it with you this week as you are thinking about your Giving Challenge campaign within the context of your fundraising efforts as a whole.

flowerDaylight Savings has begun and with that Spring’s arrival is just days away.  It is during this time of year when many of us take a closer look at our yards and gardens and begin planting seeds and watching flowers bloom.

Philanthropy is no different from your garden.  Plant some seeds and with the right type of cultivation and stewardship, you too will see the fruits of your labor take shape.

Many non-profit organizations express their fervent desire to create a culture of philanthropy. This idea often takes root when non-profit organizations recognize their need to raise more money and they choose to use this term as an outward expression of their fundraising goals.

But, a culture of philanthropy is much more than just raising money.

It’s about building, nurturing, and stewarding relationships. It’s understanding the mission of an organization and being able to connect donors in ways that bring both donors and non-profits joy. It is a movement away from a transactional focus and instead allows transformational gifts to flourish. It is an environment in which all internal stakeholders enthusiastically commit to strengthen this culture. Above all else, it is an acceptance that everyone – donors, staff, board members, and all – know that they alone can make a difference!

I would contend that creating a culture of philanthropy is similar to that of a farmer harvesting his fields. Knowledge, strategy, patience, and nourishment are all needed to harvest a fruitful field, and don’t we want to harvest fruitful philanthropy?

If so, follow the steps below that have been shared by experienced farmers and discover how your organization can indeed have a fruitful garden of donors that results in a philanthropic harvest:

  1. Plan your garden: develop a fundraising strategy.  How many organizations just simply ignore this critical, first step?
  2. Grow varieties: utilize a moves management system and include the various constituents you serve.  Donors do indeed come in all different shapes and sizes!
  3. Obtain good seed, plants, equipment and supplies: use your resources and have a budget.  By planning ahead, costly mistakes can be avoided.
  4. Prepare for the soil properly: clearly and persuasively communicate your organization’s mission and vision.  Do you know the “So what” factor? What impact is your organization making?
  5. Plant your seeds: build relationships with donors and prospects.  Be authentic, sincere, and considerate. Get to know what’s important to them (not just what’s important to us).
  6. Irrigate with care: take care of your donors and prospects; pay attention to the details.  Thoughtfulness sometimes take time – plan accordingly!
  7. Cultivate and mulch – control the weeds: stay connected on a consistent basis; raise their sights.  Timely and consistent “touches” keeps the donor engaged.
  8. Be prepared for pests and problems: be proactive and take the time to listen; show genuine care and concern.  Does your entire organization “buy-in” and endorse a culture of philanthropy? If not, pest control may be needed!
  9. Harvest at peak quality: solicit the gift at the right time for the donor; impatience could bring in smaller gifts than anticipated.  Know when the time is right.
  10. Enjoy the fruits of your harvest: begin the cycle again remembering to always keep your donor’s best interest at heart. Their involvement will help get others involved. Do the right thing and you will reap the benefits!

Jennifer Vigne is the major gifts officer at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL.  You can follow her blog here.

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