Automated Cultivation vs. “Moves Management”

I’ve never really felt comfortable with the phrase “moves management.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it refers to a process Gift Officers or other fundraising professionals use for moving donors from cultivation to solicitation. 

Moves management requires you to develop a strategy and implement a plan for every single donor or prospect on your list. The plan would consist of everything that you would do for, or with, a donor to get them to move through the consideration process and take action. Then the plan would be executed ensuring that the “moves” are made. Of course, the strategy could be readjusted and refined over time with newly formulated moves. 

I do like the concept of moves management because it is donor-centric (it’s about the donor, not just their money).

It places emphasis on taking notes to document the moves, which is a good practice for ensuring that the relationship-building process garners the attention and focus it deserves. Plus, it involves gathering information over time (progressive profiling) about a supporter’s biography, interests, passions, and giving histories.

But here’s why the phrase makes me uncomfortable.

It seems to place a lot of weight on the Gift Officer “moving” donors to give within a certain time frame, rather than enabling supporters to move themselves. 

Even the term’s originator, Dave Dunlop, shares my concern. In an interview with Jim Lord, author of the classic book on fundraising titled The Raising of Money, Dave said the term “can easily be misunderstood, so people start ‘making moves’ and making a game of moves, rather than really recognizing the process we’re a part of is inspiring people to do the things that we believe they would want to do anyway. Really helping them accomplish what is consistent with their values and interests.”

Now let’s contrast moves management with automated cultivation.

First, I think the best fundraisers help donors move themselves through the consideration and decision-making process. Sure, they make plans for each donor in their caseload. But they don’t make presumptions. They don’t try to move donors. No! Instead, they offer opportunities, provide value, and help donors find meaning in their lives. They give to donors first and frequently. 

Through giving they become marathon runners, not sprinters and motivators, not manipulators.

But how can a fundraiser give so often to so many?

I get it, cultivation is challenging. It involves gathering massive amounts of information, keeping track of vast quantities of details, writing highly personal letters and emails, and so forth. Plus you’ve got to think carefully about each donor’s needs and interests along with how they align with why they care about your cause and where they reside in the consideration process. Then, after considering all that, every outreach message must be carefully conceived and thoughtfully produced.

Let’s face it, everyone in the business of raising money knows they need to do cultivation well in order to succeed in moves management, but hardly anyone can afford the time and effort required to do it exceptionally well. 

Enter technology for automating the process.

Now the technology exists for growing interest in major gifts among a larger audience using engagement offers. When fundraisers employ it, they find they can do more than moves management at scale for less. 

Nonprofits that leverage technology to automate the tedious, time-consuming, inefficient, and expensive cultivation process help their Gift Officers spend more time with the most highly qualified prospects who want to have a deeper relationship and are ready to meet to exchange money for value.

Leveraging technology enables you to widen the funnel to create a feedback loop and engage with more major and legacy gift prospects than you ever could on your own. Plus this way the donor is more in control of the process than the fundraiser. They get to decide if, when, and where she’ll engage. 

Don’t get me wrong, the old moves management approach works. It’s just a clunkier version of what technology can do now for more people, effortlessly. 

Maybe we should blend automated cultivation and moves management instead of comparing them to one another.

I think that would really be the best approach, a blending of the two!

If you let technology handle the moves and provide the offers that empower a donor to move herself through the process, then you can handle the moves necessary to facilitate the giving action once the donor is ready for a deeper relationship and face-to-face contact. 

What do you think?


Related Posts:

>>Don’t Survey Your Donors Unless You Have Cultivation Ready to Go
>>What’s Really Wrong With Moves Management


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Janice Williams
Janice Williams
5 years ago

This sounds like a great solution for an organization I’m working with to strengthen their understanding of and approach to donor development. Can you tell me about some of the software that is available to automate donor cultivation?

Jennifer Alpert
5 years ago

I feel compelled to clarify sadly common misinformation regarding Moves Management. Many years ago, I had one of the founders of Moves Management, Dave Dunlop, present to my organization’s board. He shared his frustration that the founders never meant the term Moves to refer to donors, rather STAFF! Moves Management is about getting staff into action. As fundraisers we can only inspire donors. The thought we can “move” donors is preposterous. A little history: Buck Smith developed Moves Managment and Dave Dunlop helped refine and popularize it (as has Bill Sturdevant later). Please help correct this common misconception.

Claire Axelrad
5 years ago

I like to think of it not so much as fundraisers moving donor “pieces” on a chess board and more as emotionally moving donors to passionately enact their values. To the extent automated ‘touches’ can facilitate this, I’m all for it! I still believe in a mix of high, medium and low level ‘touches’ or ‘moves’ or ‘engagement’ strategies—whatever you want to call them. Ultimately, you’re going to have to get up close and personal to secure your optimal gift.

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