Cultivation means giving more than you get

September 30, 2021
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Home 9 +Good Newsletter 9 Cultivation means giving more than you get

One of our favorite games to play is buzzword bingo. 

You know the drill. 

You’re on a call, and someone starts dropping lingo like it’s their job. Synergy. Best practices. Value add. Circle back. Engaging content. 

It’s a comedy routine in action. 

But every now and then, you hear something that is both a buzzword and enormously important. Something that has the power to both live on a bingo card and revolutionize your business.

Here’s one of our favorites: cultivation

It’s one of those things that we know is important in theory—but is really hard to define. What is cultivation? What does it mean to cultivate a donor (or even a colleague)? And why does it matter? 

For us, cultivation means giving more than you get. 

It means providing value, fixing problems, and offering help—independent of what you’ll receive in return. 

Cultivation means building a relationship. 

In the wise words of Gary Vaynerchuk, it’s the concept of “jab, jab, jab, right hook”—giving, giving, giving, and then asking, instead of constantly making requests. 

It’s a posture of generosity—whether that means giving time, stories, information, advice, or entertainment. 

And you know what happens as a result? People will like you. They’ll respect you. They’ll value you. And they’ll likely want to give you something in return. 

So here’s the tough question for us nonprofit leaders: how are you cultivating your communityHere are some helpful questions to get the ball rolling…

  1. Are you sending messages that do not have an ask in them? (You should be!)
  2. Are you asking donors about themselves? Are you genuinely trying to get to know them? (Equally importantly: what are you doing with that info once you discover it?)
  3. When was the last time you did something nice for a donor (or better yet, a colleague!) just because? With no expectation of reciprocity? 
  4. How can you provide value to your community? What do you have that they want? 

Yes, cultivation is a buzzword. But it also matters. Big time. It’s the secret sauce for great donor relationships—and consequently, the magic ingredient for successful fundraising. 

Have an excellent cultivation tip or practice? We’d love to hear it! Let us know by commenting below.

Allison Kooser

Allison is Chief Storyteller at Swell+Good, where she partners with amazing organizations to help them bring their stories to life. She is an avid traveler, an expert takeout orderer, and a big believer in curiosity and kindness. She tries to learn something new every day, and she reads, writes, and paddleboards more than the average human.
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