Donor Cultivation

Relationship building and engaging prospects

The Cycle

One of the most critical basics of fundraising is the Donor Cultivation Cycle. This simple approach helps provide structure to your fundraising goals and allows you to easily plan for today and prepare for tomorrow.

Beginning fundraisers and those looking to revitalize their planned giving programs or other fundraising opportunities should return to the Donor Cultivation Cycle to analyze the strength of their development plans.

Donor Cultivation Cycle

How to Use the Donor Cultivation Cycle

  1. Identify the stage your fundraising activities are currently in. Perhaps you are just starting to identify your planned gift donor prospects. Or maybe you have already asked potential major donors to your organization and need to focus on donor stewardship.
  2. After you have identified your current stage, look ahead to the next area of focus. Those in the cultivation stage should prepare for soliciting, or asking your donors. It is important to continue planning the next stage so your donors have a consistent, pleasant experience with appropriate communication and insight from the nonprofit they choose to make an investment in.
  3. Take special note of the specific shape of the Donor Cultivation Cycle. This process is an unending, unbroken circle that moves in only one direction. What does that mean for fundraisers? First, that the Donor Cultivation Cycle should become a part of the culture of philanthropy and daily rhythm of donor relations activities completed by nonprofits. And next, fundraisers cannot move backward through the Cycle. If you jump to cultivation and skip over stewardship and identification, your fundraising will suffer.

Do you have a specific question about fundraising basics?  Visit and for webinars, tools, and many more resources to help you establish a thriving development department.

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