Key Secrets to Cultivating Stronger Relationships

key secrets to cultivating Stronger Relationships

It has been said that there are three questions each of us must ask ourselves:

  1. Who are you?
  2. Why are you here?
  3. Why will it matter?

These are good questions for any nonprofit or NGO to answer as well.  You know who you are, you know what you are here to do, and you know the ‘hoped for’ results of your work.

To achieve success, you want to educate and cultivate new potential leaders and donors, and you want to deepen and strengthen the relationships you already enjoy with board members, donors, volunteers and other stakeholders.  As many of us learned in kindergarten: “Make new friends, but keep the old; new friends are like silver, old friends are like gold.”  Like good wine, friendships get better with time, especially if you nurture them and take good care of them.

Effective programs of cultivation educate people and spark their interest which encourages them to get further involved.  With their appetites whetted, people crave more involvement and want to help.  It is very helpful to map out a plan to do this throughout the year, with publications, newsletters and special events evenly spaced.  You can inform people in your publications, website and newsletters, and where possible visit your most influential people personally to share your vision.

When you visit with leaders and donors, you should first thank them for the many ways they have helped your organization, and show them what it has enabled you to do (Who are you?). Then you can share the broad vision of what you want to do in the coming year, and explain how they can help (Why are you here?).  You can show them your vision for the desired outcome and how it will impact our world (Why will it matter?).

People do not respond to need; they respond to people.  People give more because they develop deeper and more fulfilling relationships with people who are involved in helping them make the world better.  The fastest and most effective way to build a strong bond with your leaders and donors is to purposely spend quality time with them.

A good relationship is built on many little positive things.  A kind word here, a warm gesture there, and a thoughtful note or gift.  Perhaps the best gift is to fellowship with your constituents, working to create warm memories surrounding the work you do together.   Like money at compound interest, many little kindnesses outperform one major gesture.

The people I know, who have developed the best networks of friends and supporters are very purposeful.  They always look for the best in others, and they try to bring it out and reward it, and they are methodically doing nice things for others, in a very productive and purposeful way.

How many more relationships might you build, how many more might you strengthen if you create and follow a plan that requires you to call five people on the telephone today (and every work day) to express your affection and appreciation, or just to talk?  What If you wrote three handwritten notes?  What if you went to see one more person each week for a brief visit?  Finally, what would be the impact if you sent a nice package to someone once per week.  What might that do for the other?  What could it mean to them?  And finally, how might it affect you?   Would that make you feel good, sending a little joy to the other people?

***Note: this article was originally published to the blog hosted by “America’s Charities” at

David Phillips has over 30 years of fundraising experience.  He founded Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) in 1996.  He and the firm’s campaign consultants have provided counsel to hundreds of non-profit organizations and led hundreds of successful campaigns that have raised more than 2.5 billion dollars.  His area of expertise is major gifts fundraising and the planning, implementation and management of capital campaigns.

Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) is among the most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada.  If you have a fundraising question, please call CDS at 800-761-3833 or send an email to