A Little Cultivation Goes a Long Way

Published on July 11, 2017

Brian Saber

President of Asking Matters
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One of the most frequent questions I hear is about how much cultivation a donor needs before asking for a gift. For most donors it’s less than you would think.

Just put yourself in your donor’s shoes. If you were thinking of making a gift near the higher range of your giving, what would you want?

Would you want to meet with someone from the organization more than once or twice? Maybe for a very special gift you made once in awhile, but not for the larger gifts you make every year, right?

Most donor cultivation is not one-on-one in person, and doesn’t need to be. If you reach out to a donor personally by email or phone every two months, and meet once a year to cultivate and once to ask for a gift, you’re probably golden with most donors.

These touches, in addition to the other touches your donor is likely to have – newsletters, invites to events, volunteering, etc., – will make for a well-rounded relationship with your organization.

What if you’re not sure? I often hear someone’s not sure if their donor is ready to be asked and don’t want to do anything that could be deemed pushy.

The best solution is to ask if you can ask. Asking for permission to ask, and couching it in your doubt and your desire to do the right thing, will sound respectful and thoughtful, and is bound to bring your donor closer. Here’s one way to word it:


Thank you so much for your interest in XYZ Community Center. Of course we would love it if that interest grew into financial support for the Center, but I wanted to be respectful of our young relationship. Would you be ready to talk about a gift with us? Or would you rather we got to know each other a bit more first? I don’t want to be presumptuous one way or the other and would like to take your lead.

Who wouldn’t feel good about being respected this way? And the beauty of it. . . it’s the truth. Better to speak the truth – and learn the truth – than to be coy or have to take a stab in the dark. Just ask if you can ask!



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