Dating is all about getting to know a person better and better over time. It has similarities across fundraising but in particular it has a lot of similarities with major donor fundraising where, in both cases, the aim is to build a relationship to the point of making a commitment and look after that relationship from then on.

Remember the seven steps of donor solicitation?

  1. Identify
  2. Qualify
  3. Approach
  4. Cultivate
  5. Ask
  6. Thank
  7. Steward

Now let’s look at online dating. There are a lot of sites to choose from but what they all have in common are two core ingredients:

  • Your personal information
  • Your search criteria

The website’s database then searches other people’s personal information to match your criteria.

This is identification – we often get research done into possible supporters based on broad criteria.

You receive your long-list and start to read through the profiles, browse the pictures and whittle the list down further.

This is qualification – we go through those lists and weed out those we know won’t support the cause, those we cannot connect with etc.

Then you do the brave thing and make first contact: you write a witty and thoughtful message or perhaps you just swipe right or like their profile.

This is approach – we make first contact. Sometimes we just write, other times we seek an introduction or find a way to be in the same place and make a face-to-face introduction.

One of your approaches is reciprocated and your strike up a conversation on the site. If things go well you exchange phone numbers, email addresses, arrange to meet for a drink, dinner, go see a show… I do not need to spell out dating to anyone.

Usually that first person isn’t that in to you and so you start again. And then you’re not keen on the next person and so on. Dating is, after all, a series of faltering starts until your find someone who is a good match.

So you meet someone with promise. You arrange to meet again, you keep dating, you get to know each other better, you get to know the key people in their life and you introduce the key people in yours.

All of this is cultivation – we meet at events and get to know the person whilst they get to know our cause, we send articles of interest, we introduce the service delivery team, we meet the spouse, the children.

Finally, when the time is right, you commit to one another. But when is the time right? How do you know?

If your date had proposed to you on your first date I’d wager you’d have run a mile! Equally, if no commitment is ever forthcoming then the other party will lose interest and drift away. Getting the timing right is important. Making the commitment is also important.

This is asking – we have to do it and we have to work out when to do it.

When the person agrees to your proposal you say thank you, don’t you? Maybe not in so many words but I am sure you express gratitude!

This is thanking – we say thank you. We then write and say thank you. We may even discuss ways to recognise such a welcome financial commitment.

And then you work hard to keep your relationship healthy through that commitment. You keep getting to know one another as you both develop and change; you ask for and offer different commitments over time.

This is stewardship – we continue to develop as an organisation, the cause is bound to shift and move too; we keep our new partner involved and engaged, knowledgeable about changes and their reasons. We ask again(when the time is right).



Give your major donor programme a health check now