Tips for Grassroots Groups: Year-end Cultivation, Stewardship and Solicitation

Janet Wilkinson

The end of the year is a great time to look both back and forward, to both ask for support and to celebrate those who have already given. It’s not too late to produce some memorable and effective end of year activities for your group! 


First, decide on your goal. Are you trying to ask for donations from those who already know about you? Encourage new donors and/or volunteers to join you? Recognize and thank those who have contributed? Your messaging will be most clear, and the activities likely more effective, if you focus on only one of those goals at a time.  


Here are three ideas for end-of-year activities related to stewardship, cultivation and solicitation:


Donor/volunteer stewardship ideas (appreciation and engagement of those who already support your work):

1. Celebrate with a potluck gathering and invite all your constituents including participants, beneficiaries and donors. Share food, stories, recognition of key volunteers, perhaps a slideshow of highlights of your work and plans for the future. 

2. Write hand written thank you notes to those who made your work possible. Or send holiday cards with well wishes to your supporters – bonus points if the card features images or art related to your project and work. Or write notes to your top volunteers' loved ones, thanking them for sharing their loved one with you. 

3. Schedule phone calls or in person meetings with your top donors and/or volunteers. Learn more about why they have chosen you for investing their time and/or money. Ask for their input on key questions you are grappling with, share some of your plans and dreams for the future, and some of your challenges too. And of course, thank them for their support!

Donor/volunteer cultivation ideas (identifying new potential supporters for your work):

1. Reach out to your current supporters and ask them to share your work in their personal network. Provide plenty of supporting information to make the sharing easy – relevant URL’s, some images or video, some ways to get involved, and sample text they could include in an email introducing your work to their people. Be sure to acknowledge up front that this is a big ask and remind them that their friends, family and colleagues will be cultivated with care.

2. Collaborate with other local grassroots groups or with groups outside your community who are doing similar work to run an ad in the paper, write a press release about the year’s successes, or host a celebratory or informational event. 

3. Write a story about your group’s work and share it with your supporters. Grassroots Fund, for instance, will publish relevant stories (especially if they come with great photos or video!) and get them in front of thousands of pairs of eyes across the region, which could result in new supporters and donors. If you received donated product from a local retailer, they may be willing to put information out by their registers or include a story about you (that you offer to draft for them) in their e-newsletter.  

Donor/volunteer solicitation ideas (asking for support for your work):

1. A time-limited campaign for end-of-year support. The campaign could include a combination of email, social media, written, and phone communication. If you don’t have the capacity to receive donations directly, online crowdfunding platforms may be a good option since many don’t require you to be a 501(c)(3).

2. Ask one or more of your strongest supporters to host an in-home event as a fundraiser. The event might include a brief presentation about your work, stories from your beneficiaries, and the host asking directly for a donation from everyone in attendance. This idea may also work for local businesses that have supported your work in the past. Don't forget to serve up yummy refreshments!

3. Challenge your supporters to do some fundraising for you! They might compete in a race in your name or ask for donations in lieu of birthday or other types of gifts. They could organize bake sales, collect spare change, host a garage sale, organize a 50-50 raffle...anything is possible with a bit of inspiration and some hard work! Be sure to provide them some support, such as ways to create and share their personal fundraising goals, information about your organization for them to use, instructions for donating the money they raise, etc. 

Be sure to join us at the RootSkills Conference and attend the fundraising track for more ideas on donor cultivation, stewardship and solicitation!