This post is the third in a series study guides I created as I was studying for the CFRE exam. The source for most of this information is the AFP Review Course for the CFRE Exam, summarized and reorganized to match the format of the CFRE Test Content Outline.
My notes on Relationship Building:
A. Initiate and strengthen relationships with all constituents through a systematic cultivation plan designed to build trust in, and long term commitment to, the organization.
To begin to strengthen a relationship with a donor, one must understand their motivation for giving. As a fundraiser it is our job to look from the perspective of donors. People don’t give just because an organization does good work, they give bc it satisfies a need of the individual.
Motivations for Giving
To get social acceptance
To gain a position of influence in helping shape the future of institution and the lives of those being served
Because of dedication to the same cause
A moral obligation to “be thy brother’s keeper”
Direct personal benefits to the donor (e.g. access to events, celebrities, etc.)
To gain tax or financial planning benefits
A commitment to the overall well-being of the community
In order to diminish negative feelings such as guilt, fear or anger.
To gain immortality. (e.g. have a building named after them)
To express deep emotion. (In memory or to honor a loved one)
Creating a Cultivation Plan
Development is based on principals of relationship building, and on consideration of the needs of the donor. The task of the Development Officer is to match donor interest to organizational needs. The purpose of cultivation is to add prospects to a donor base by engaging them as donors, and improve relationships with current donors building a greater understanding of the valuable role they can play. There are seven steps to building a relationship which guide donor cultivation techniques:
Research - As described in Study Guide 1
Inquire/Approach/Involve - This is the first step in getting to know a donor, and engaging them in your organization.
Develop a Request - You want to make the right ask at the right time. You need to connect a donors interests to a specific need.
Solicit - This is the asking part. Remember the four R’s Right Ask, Right Time, Right Person, Right Amount.
Follow through - Provide more information if necessary, make sure your donor has everything needed to make their gift, and that you have the correct structures in place to receive it.
Report/Thank - This is not just about thanking a donor and then never talking to them again. Organizations need to report back on the impact of the gift. This is the stewardship part of the cultivation.
Repeat - If you continue to correctly cultivate your donors they should be deeply engaged with your organization. If they have a positive experience with their first donation, you can continue to build the relationship with them, and eventually make another ask as you find a new match between donor values and organization needs.
Some things to remember:
People give to people, not to causes.
Volunteers are one of the greatest assets you have when cultivating donors. Don’t forget to engage them in building relationships.
In order to build a relationship, it needs to be based in authenticity. You need to believe in your cause and know your case backwards and forwards.
Like any relationship, you can’t rush cultivation to get the gift faster.
B. Develop and implement a comprehensive communications plan in order to inform constituents and identified markets about the mission, vision, and values of the organization, it’s founding priorities, and gift opportunities.
I already covered much of the information about building a marketing plan in Study Guide 2, but here are some highlights.
Don’t be invisible to your donors! Make sure you communicate results with them, and use various tools such as email, social media, mail, phone calls, events, PR outreach, etc. to keep them engaged and informed.
Learn how your donors like to be communicated with, and create a communications plan that fits your donors needs.
It takes 3-10 reminders per donor throughout a campaign to get your message across. One message is not enough, remind your donors often you are there and doing good work, which they can support.
- Don’t make your messages too complicated. It should be short, sharable, recognizeable and transferable. Give your donors something they want to share, of that makes them want to act.
Target your messaging to donors. The better you can match your message to a donors interest the better you will do.
Articulate the benefits of your organization. Show the impact of giving, and appeal to donor motivations in your communications materials.
Make your communications donor-centered. It should match to their interests, not just your needs.
- Grabs attention: It is tailored to a target audience.
- Builds conviction and desire: It promises a benefit if action is taken.
- Stirs interest: It motivates your target audience to act.
- Calls the audience to action: Outlines specific steps for an audience to take.
C. Promote a culture of philanthropy by broadening constituents’ understanding of the value of giving.
One role of a Development Proefessional is not just to raise money for an organization, but to educate people about the value of giving. Building a culture of philanthropy at an organization involves educating colleagues, co-workers, and donors about the impact philanthropy has on achieveing your mission. One great definition of a culture of philanthropy, borrowed from The Osborne Group is as follows:
Everyone within the institution or organization, including recipients of services and their families, and the board of directors or trustees, UNDERSTANDS, EMBRACES, AND ACTS ON his or her roles and responsibilities in philanthropy and stewardship in a collaborative and donor‐centric manner.
Creating a culture of philanthropy is about educating everyone in your organization about the value of giving and making clear the valuable role all constituents play in an organizations life. Promoting the culture of philanthropy is a key reason for AFPs existance as well. AFP has three main goals:
- Foster the development and growth of fundraising professionals.
- Preserve and enhance philanthropy and volunteerism.
- Promote high ethical standards of the fundraising profession.
As we as development professionals build our organizations and donors understanding about the importance of philanthropy we advance the sector as a whole.
D. Acknowledge and recognize gifts in ways that are meaningful to donors and appropriate to the mission and values of the organization.
Prompt acknowledgment and recognition of gifts is important to donor stewardship. A thank-you should be appropriate for the level of the gift, and done in a way that respects donor preferences. It is the responsibility of development professionals to ensure every gift is stewarded properly, part of that stewardship is learning the way a donor wants to be thanked.
Careful gift processing throughout the entire process is critical. There much be good communication between the finance team and the development team to ensure donations are tracked and thanked appropriately in a timely matter. By thanking donors and reporting to donors how their gifts are used we build donor confidence and increasing the likelyhood of a future gift.
There are a variety of ways to thank a donor, and recognition strategies vary based on the size of the gift and the interests of the donor.
Telephone calls are a prompt way to personally acknowledge a gift is recieved.
All donors should recieve a written thank you in the form of a postcard or personal letter in addition to any tax acknowledgement.
In the case of certain gifts, a personal visit following the thank you letter may be appropriate.
Public recognition of gifts at events is appropriate when cleared with the donor.
Listing donors in giving lists, or naming opportunities should be communicated to the donor in advance, and can be used as a tool to increase a donor’s sense of belonging at an organization.
In addition to good stewardship, organizations are required to provide specific acknowledgements of large gifts for tax purposes. Good record keeping is important since this information is also required for an organization’s 990.
Acknowledgement of donors support should go beyond the thank you note, and continue into follow up communications about the impact of the gift.