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How to Use the Fundraising Cycle for Maximum Results

Some nonprofits find it beneficial to use something called the fundraising cycle to help map out events and activities.  This cycle consists of four parts or phases: Identification, Cultivation, Solicitation and Recognition.  

Each step is necessary to complete the cycle, but do you know where to place the most effort in order to see the best results?

Step 1:  Identification

 Identification or identifying your target supporters is the first step of this cycle of fundraising.  For nonprofits with a solid group of supporters already in place, you’ll be looking to them for their continued support and possibly requesting that some of them also become peer-to-peer fundraisers to help expand your community outreach.  

What you may not think to do, but definitely should be doing, is looking internally — specifically to your board members — they should be involved with and dedicated to your mission on a regular basis.  

The amount of time you spend on identification will depend on your current level of support versus how much more you need to reach your organization’s goals. 

Step 2:  Cultivation

 Cultivation or building strong relationships with your donors is the second phase of the fundraising cycle, but the most important for retaining nonprofit donors and thereby ensuring future donations and overall sustained support.  

In fact, many fundraising resources will tell you that 60% of an organization’s time should be spent on this phase, however, for nonprofits it’s estimated that closer to 90% of your fundraising efforts should go toward cultivation.  

And it makes sense; the more quality time and resources you put into building a strong foundation for your house, the longer it will be there to support you!  If you’re not investing in cultivation, you’re not adequately securing the future of your mission. 

Step 3:  Solicitation

 Solicitation or asking for donations, gifts or support, is the third step and one that you should be taking with great care… If you’ve put in the time to cultivate strong relationships with your donors BEFORE soliciting them, then you should be good to go.  

Part of properly cultivating your supporters is understanding their communication preferences, how much to ask for from certain groups compared to others, and how frequently to ask.  Having the cultivation aspect pinned down should allow solicitation to occur more smoothly.    

Step 4:  Recognition

 Recognition or stewardship is showing appreciation for the support you’ve been given and is the fourth and final phase of the fundraising cycle, but a step that should be happening ALL the time!  If you’re not regularly showing gratitude for your supporters in one way or another, you’ll risk losing that support system that you worked so hard to build.

Here are just some of the things you should be doing to show proper recognition to your supporters:

Celebrate Successes:  Show your excitement and gratitude for successful fundraising efforts.  This will give your supporters something to look forward to for the next big campaign or event!

Hold a “Thankathon”:  Get your entire staff and board members involved in reaching out to some of your supporters by phone.  Dedicate an hour one day to everyone standing in the same room, calling up supporters to thank them personally.  Standing during these calls is suggested because research has shown that people sound happier standing versus sitting!  Plus, it’s fair to say that most of us sit enough throughout the day!!  

Send Personalized Thank You’s:  For major gifts or even smaller gifts contributed toward a significant accomplishment, you should mail specialized and personalized thank-you cards and possibly even gifts to some (if not all) of your supporters. 

Implementing the fundraising cycle and tailoring your efforts within each phase for the specific needs of your mission can help you create the ultimate fundraising plan for your nonprofit!