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Pipeline Strategies for New and Current Donors

We strive for work-life balance. We try not to procrastinate, and we don’t want to waste our time. Yet, we tend to do the things we want to do first and maybe forget about the things we don’t like to do.

What does this have to do with “pipeline strategies” and “new donors”?

It’s this: how do we allocate our 40-hour work week around the donor cycle? How much time should we and our development team spend on identification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of our donors?

One source I found said 90% of an organization’s time should be spent on cultivation. That’s a lot and doesn’t leave time for much of anything else.

After lots of google research, I conclude there is no “best practice” for donor cycle time allocation. But my experience has taught me that getting to know the donor, bringing them close to the organization (cultivation), and keeping them close (stewardship) are the most important jobs we can do as fundraisers.

Yes, we need to continually identify new donors, but remember, it’s more cost efficient to keep a donor than cultivate a new one. So, spending more time with you existing donors makes dollar sense.

Soliciting your donors is done a few times a year, a small percentage of your overall work year.

Considering the lesser amount of time needed to identify and solicit, it follows that more time be spent on cultivation and stewardship. I recommend 80% on cultivation and stewardship; and 20% on identification and solicitation.

A fundraising rule of thumb is that a donor should receive seven touches (communications) between solicitations. Here are some cultivation and stewardship ideas you may want to try:

  • Monthly newsletter (electronic or print)

  • Tours of your facility, virtual is ok

  • Lunch and Learn or Brown Bag Series, informal lunchtime presentations

  • Informative emails

  • Birthday and holiday cards, consider something different like the 4th of July or Arbor Day

  • Events

  • Phone calls

While we always need to attract new donors, we must also let our existing donors know they are appreciated as people and supporters. With the right encouragement, donors tend to increase their financial contributions over time.

How we balance our time is important to maintain a good pipeline of prospects and moving current donors to a more engaged relationship with your organization.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching, grant writing, and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in small to mid-size organizations because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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