Every major donor is different.  Your cultivation process should be tailored to meet the specific needs and expectations of each donor.

And remember, beyond the need for customized cultivation strategies, within the sphere of major gift donors, the entrepreneur is an even more unique animal.

Entrepreneurs are often self-made success stories, and they value those traits in others.  They are successful business owners accustomed to creating value in all they do.  And they’ll identify positively with a nonprofit that exemplifies those traits.

These people have worked incredibly hard for the wealth they’ve accumulated.  They’re also savvy financial managers, understanding what it takes to make payroll and keep a business afloat in tough times.

These traits and experiences combine to form a major donor that is highly unlikely to blindly give away their hard-earned wealth.

Entrepreneurs are much more likely than other donors to expect (read: demand) to see your business plan and financial assumptions, expect access to key organizational leadership, and even to expect to provide (and have you heed) input on the project they are funding.

Here are six ways you can more fully engage the entrepreneurial donor:

  1. Engage them with bold vision and smart strategy.
  2. Provide opportunities for them to give input and shape the program/project through their expertise, not just their checkbook.
  3. Build them a custom case for support that closely mirrors a for-profit business plan. 
  4. Respect their time.  Be efficient in your communications, both in-person and via phone, mail and e-mail.
  5. Remember that entrepreneurs are more likely to want (read: need) to carefully manage their personal and corporate cash-flow, so structure your gift request in a way that allows them the opportunity to make a stretch gift over time rather than in one lump-sum.
  6. Be prompt in your recognition and follow-up.  Provide them with regular status updates and impact reports.  Paint them a picture of the social ROI that their investment has achieved.