How to Nurture to Retain Major Donors

Mar 28, 2019Donors, Leadership

Donor-Retention Donors Leadership

In any given week, how much time do you spend keeping your major donors informed of activities, impacts, and needs of the organization?

Out of that time, how much is spent sending emails or text messages?

It’s true that email and text messaging is easy, fast, and super convenient. We can shoot off a message to one donor or thousands in a click of a button.

But there’s one problem many nonprofit leaders are not owning up to — electronic messaging is not your most personal way to engage your major donors.

If you're mainly sending emails and text messages to your top donors with little time to making meaningful contact, you’re not developing that relationship like you should.

You must build a culture that supports personally connecting with your top donors.

A key component of fundraising is relationship building. It’s similar to developing and nurturing your personal friendships.

It takes time. It means sincerely fostering your relationships.

I tend to keep a small circle of friends. That’s what you should do when establishing a circle of top major donors. You build trust with your donors. They believe in your work. They know you are good stewards of the funds. They have made an investment and entrusted you.

Stay connected with major donors, not just with mass messaging. Keep your major donors informed of their impact. Let current and potential major donors know the immediate needs of your organization – in a personal way.

So how do you do that? What does that look like?

We keep donors informed through touchpoints.

Here are top ways to keep your current (and potential) major donors connected to your organization in meaningful ways:

1.  Handwritten notes

After a donor has made a significant gift, you want to write a personal, handwritten note. Your note should be sincere and heartfelt. Let your donor know they are a hero in how they are helping others. Be specific in letting her know how she is making a difference.

See the Three Absolutes to Include in Every Thank You Note. 

2.  Phone calls

Pick up the phone to check on a donor you have not spoken with in a month or so. When I have not talked with a friend in a while, I will check in to see how she is doing. Your major donors are your organization’s best friends. They become your family.

Share newsworthy events and happenings. You likely will have updates on new initiatives to share with your major donors. Your donors like to know the latest news. They like to be the first to know. We often forget how much information there is to share. Your donors don’t hear about the mission work like you do every day. They may read your newsletter, but it’s nice to be the first know of breaking news directly from you.

3.  Visits

As with a phone call, check in with your major donors. Go to see them at their office, at their home, or over a cup of coffee. There is nothing like meeting face to face and giving them your full attention. Always let them know how much you appreciate them. Let them know how their gifts are going to work. Share an update on current needs. Listen for their interests. Be attentive.

4.  Personal invites

If you have an upcoming event, make a special effort (call or visit) to invite your potential and current major donors. Make sure they are the first to know about the event, have it on their calendars, received their tickets, know the parking and seating logistics, etc. These are the people you want at the event – make sure they feel like the VIP they are!

5.  Special occasions

Have the birthdays of your top donors (including spouses/significants) on your calendar. Have birthday cards handy, addressed and stamped, ready for you to add a personal note to the card.

Your donors have life events. Know what is happening in their life so you can wish them a speedy recovery, congratulate them, or wish them well on a trip.

6.  Advice

One of my all-time favorites is to ask a major donor for advice. Since they are close to the organization, they can provide valuable advice in areas of their expertise. Maybe they can help you with an introduction, review a document, decide on a new logo, etc.

Say thank you when you make these touchpoints.

Do you want this person to give again and at a higher level? Then build a meaningful relationship with them.

Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at [email protected].


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