Q: We have some new members of our sustainable funding team who we want to become solicitors/cultivators of our existing donors. How do I pass a donor relationship to someone who doesn't know that donor yet? I have way more people than I can cultivate but I'm the only one in the organization that currently has a relationship with them.
Malaika in California
A: Once an organization using the Benevon Model has launched their Multiple-Year Giving Society (donors who make commitments of at least $1,000 a year for five years), they will need to carefully evaluate the appropriate staff resources needed to sustain their cultivation and donor engagement efforts. We say that one full-time person who does nothing but donor cultivation could be accountable for managing about 200 relationships annually.
The primary "cultivator" must have a minimum of two personal contacts annually with each donor in your Multiple-Year Giving Society that they are responsible for cultivating. A personal cultivation contact means one-on-one, face to face, or a full telephone conversation where a true dialog takes place.
Once you have identified the major gifts staff or key volunteers who are committed to building a long-term relationship with each donor, you need to have a three-way meeting to transition your relationship to the new cultivator. Of course, you will brief the new development person on each donor's background in great detail. (Hopefully, you will have put detailed notes in your database to refer to!) The first contact is to introduce the donor to this team member. This can be done by phone but would best be done face to face.
In the first meeting, you want to assure the donor that the new cultivator has your trust and confidence and that they are in regular contact with you. Have the team member share a little about themselves, including why they are so passionate about your mission. Prepare some questions for them to ask of the donor as well. Tell the donor that this person will be helping to keep them in the loop on all that you are doing. Stress that you aren't going away!
Another good way to transition donor relationships is by having a small-group "CEO Golden Hour" where you invite four or five major donors to your office to share updates and challenges you're having and ask for their input, or themed sessions about new programs you've taken on. Give your new cultivator a prominent role in those small group meetings and let the donors know that you've asked this person to follow up with each of them to get their feedback.
It may take more than one meeting to "pass-off" the relationship comfortably, but if you are intentional about which donors you want to keep and which to transition, and if you are confident that the new cultivators are capable of building relationships, you should be able to do this systematically over a period of six to twelve months.