Using a Traditional Donor Cultivation Cycle? You’re Leaving Value on the Table

We all know how the traditional donor cultivation cycle goes, right? You identify prospects, qualify them, cultivate them, solicit donations, close donations, and then steward those lovely people who donate.

You can tell just from the above sentence what’s at the core of this cycle: money. And of course it is, right? After all, that’s what fundraising is ultimately all about.

But here’s the thing: the money you’re able to raise out of the traditional donor cultivation cycle is the least valuable part of the experience.

What really matters is the information you’re getting about the prospects and donors, and how you use it moving forward.

The Traditional Donor Cultivation Cycle is Missing the Gold

If you go through all six steps of a donor cultivation cycle, you’ve got potentially hundreds of data points that you’re learning about these people. Everything from giving capacity to their indicators of interest to their communication preferences.

This is gold … you’ve got a whole bunch of people giving you information about how they prefer to be solicited for donations, and the signs that they’re ready to give to you. It might be explicit, in the form of feedback to your asks, or it may show up as implicit feedback in the form of behaviors, but either way, that’s quite a dataset.

The problem is, most organizations don’t use it.

See, the traditional donor cultivation model works as a one-way circle. 

You get people in, you move them through, and then they’re donors and get looped through infinite cultivation/solicitation limbo.

But this is a huge waste of opportunity — if people have already given you so much insight into their giving behaviors, why would you not take that into consideration as you’re nurturing givers up the giving pyramid?

The good news is, there’s an easy fix.

Affinity-Based Dimensional Donor Cultivation Moves You Upward

If you reframe the donor cultivation cycle as a funnel, instead of a circle, everything changes.

Look at what can happen in each stage if you move from the traditional donor cultivation cycle into an affinity-based dimensional funnel:

Stage 1: Identify

You start out using affinity-based prospecting to get a sense of your total addressable market (TAM), and identify who within that pool of prospects is likely to behave like your best donors, and then only move those people forward.

Stage 2: Qualify

You continue using the insights you have into these people’s interests wealth, giving capacity, and underlying affinities to ensure that you’re only speaking to highly qualified prospects.

Stage 3: Cultivate

You meet each prospect where they’re at with targeted outreach that matches their communication preferences and speaks to their needs and wants when it comes to giving. Once they’ve donated to your cause, you’re also able to track their historical giving patterns, so you know exactly how much cultivation they’re likely to need before they’re ready to give again.

Stage 4: Solicit

You make a specific ask designed to appeal to highly targeted segments of prospects for maximum effectiveness.

Stage 5: Close

You use the feedback from your solicitation to understand your prospects needs and wants even better, and do responsive outreach to proactively move them through the closing process.

Stage 6: Steward

You provide thank-you’s, updates, and ongoing donor stewardship that speaks directly to these donors’ interests and needs.

Once a donor moves through the circle once, they don’t end up in cultivation limbo, instead, you run them through the identification and qualification stages again using the newly nuanced information you have based on your previous cycle of cultivation.

This allows you to be responsive to where donors are, acknowledge the reality that life circumstances change, and the same donor who was totally qualified for one giving tier last year might not qualify this year, or may need completely different messaging. It also lets you get better and better with every cycle you run through, because you’re constantly collecting more data points and refining your approach and outreach.

Long story short? Your donor data is value you really can’t afford to leave on the table.

Curious about how you can start tapping into this crazy-valuable resource with your donor pool? We’ve got you! Schedule a quick chat with us to dive into your needs and desires, and we’ll show you just how boodleAI can help!

Your Guide to Affinity Fundraising

Download our All Things Affinity eBook to learn about affinity, why it matters, and how to use it in your organization's fundraising strategy.

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About boodleAI

boodleAI is changing the game for donor acquisition and retention by delivering groundbreaking lifts in donations, engagement, and lifetime retention rates. We have revolutionized donor prospecting by dynamically providing high-quality, mission-aligned donor prospects directly to nonprofits. Using our seamless advertising solutions, converting these AI-curated donor prospects into lifetime donors has never been easier.