Fact Checked

What Is Donor Development?

Kristie Lorette
Kristie Lorette

Donor development is the process of showing potential donors the reason that an organization needs their donations, which is also known as cultivation. Once donors understand the need for donations, such as the construction of a new building or to fund a special program, donor development is then convincing the potential donors to make donations and even to guide them as to how much money they should donate.

Typically, donor development starts by contacting previous donors to the organization. Contacting these donors can be handled in various ways. In reality, a campaign is typically created to reach these donors in different ways over a period of time. For example, the first piece of promotion the donor may receive during donor development is a letter that states the purpose of the campaign. The organization will typically ask for a possible donation at this time, but it is not necessary to do this at this point. Some organizations chose awareness as the first step and then to ask for the donation later on in the donor development process.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Several follow-up letters, emails, listings in the organization’s newsletters and more will go out to these past donors. The goal of donor development is to get previous donors to give again and to increase the amount of their donation over the last amount that they have.

In addition to reaching out to past donors, donor development also encompasses identifying new potential donors. The first step is to identify groups that may have an interest in what the money is being raised for. For example, a historical museum that is raising money to open a museum around a historic site would contact historical societies, historians, and county and city officials for the funding that is required to create a museum around the historic site.

Once the organization brings awareness to the need for donation and identifies those that are most likely to donate, the final step to donor development is to convert potential donors into actual donors. Some organizations require monetary donations, and this is the most popular type of donation that most organizations seek. Some organizations are willing to take goods or services in kind. For example, a museum may take the donation of a construction company to build the proper encasement for an outside historic site to protect the site from the elements.

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