Know when to stop chasing the great white whale

I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. I’m, of course, referring to the act of chasing that big philanthropist in your community.

Every community has a small circle of very generous philanthropists. They have the financial capacity to give, and they support their favorite charities in ways that the average donor (like you and me) can only dream of doing some day.

From the outside looking in, fundraising and non-profit professionals start fixating on strategies to engage those individuals in our mission and our organization. It looks something like this:

  • looking at who (if anyone) in our agency’s circle of friends has access to that donor’s network;
  • engaging other people from that philanthropist’s social network in activities associated with our non-profit organization; and
  • inviting that philanthropist to get involved (e.g. attend an event, take a survey, participate in a focus group, or even volunteer some time).

All of this is called “CULTIVATION” and it is indeed a fundraising best practice; however, sometimes after all of this work the prospect doesn’t turn into a donor. There is no “magic moment”. There is no pledge card or check.

One of the most important skills for fundraising professionals to possess is to know when to stop cultivating and move onto greener, more promising pastures. If you’re unable to do this, then you end up spending lots of time (which is a limited resource) on something that will have no return on investment for your organization.

So, how do you know when to stop? Well, I think we can learn a lot about this by looking at it through a “relationship” lens.

View a Vlog post titled “They’re Just Not That Into You” by someone using the handle “DeniseActutallyVlogs” on YouTube.  Sure, she is talking about dating rituals, but how different is that really from fundraising and resource development.

Caution: Denise is a little “salty” at times during her Vlog post, but it is mostly PG-rated stuff.  I encourage you to listen to what she has to say and translate it into the language of fundraising. I think there are more than just a few nuggets of wisdom.

How have you guarded against chasing the great white whale? When do you know it is time to stop cultivating an individual and move along? Please scroll down and use the comment box to share a tip or two with your fellow non-profit friends.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.