Looking for a Cultivation Idea? How About a Bus Tour to December

| by Shannon Williams

Okay, over the last few weeks we have focused on the year end giving crunch. June 30th is two days away—only one business day before many nonprofits close out their fiscal year. The reality is whatever you have done at this point is done.

It’s time to change gears and begin thinking about the next big year end push—December 31st. What are you doing today to align your strategies so you can bring home as many year-end donors as possible? Have you mined your database to understand what percentage of your donors typically give in November and December? Among that group, who are your top givers? Who is giving at the mid-level that you might move up? Do you have a plan in place to steward and cultivate these donors to a point that they are ready to give in December?

There is good news from the 2012 Donor Survey of Cygnus Applied Research. “79% of Americans surveyed intend to give the same or more to charitable causes this year. Even better news -- the survey's most generous donors seem to have turned the corner -- 25% say they will give more while only 11% plan to give less.”

Now is the time to cultivate—to get your donors and prospects out to see your mission in action—not to ask them for a gift, but to simply see you at your best. Let me share one of my favorite cultivation activities ever. If you like it, make it your own.

Imagine an old-fashioned school bus painted up in YMCA fashion stopping at local businesses. At each stop boards a dentist, an insurance agent, a banker, a developer, and other small business owners. Once everyone is on the bus, the captive audience is welcomed with YMCA enthusiasm and stories are shared about the impact Y programs make for underserved children in the community. The stories are compelling, but then the magic happened—the stories came to life.

The bus pulls into one of those camps where these same kids—the ones in the stories—were swimming, playing, having fun. The bus riders are greeted with YMCA cheers and chants, and then they sit down to lunch with the kids. They have a chance to talk with them; learn what they like best about camp; sing a silly song together; just have fun.

When the lunch is over, the kids say thank you to the bus riders and the riders thanked them back.

On the bus the businessmen shared stories of their own lunch experiences—talked about how awesome the camp was—built their own bond through this experience. Before they were dropped off at their offices, a picture was taken of them as a group.

The bus tour happened in June. Come December, every man in the picture gave $1,000 or more to support this camp. Ten years later, they are still giving to support this program.

How will you connect your donors to your mission in action? Join our conversation.


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