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4 Strategies to Build Stronger Major Donor Relationships

Posted Jun 05, 2023 03:43 PM
Major donors likely provide a significant portion of your organization’s funding, and they’re essential to keeping the nonprofit sector running smoothly.

According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, contributions from major donors have helped offset recent declines in acquisition and retention rates for small donors, keeping overall giving stable.

As a major gifts officer or fundraising professional, building strong major donor relationships is one of your top priorities. If you can successfully retain the support of your major donors for years to come, you’ll give your nonprofit the reliable funding it needs to thrive.

With that in mind, let’s review four effective ways to build longer-lasting relationships with your major donors.

1. Demonstrate impact

Donor thank you letters and phone calls are a staple of the donor stewardship process. But beyond just thanking major donors, your messages should convey the impact their contributions have had on your organization’s projects and programs.

Showing major donors how their gifts have made a difference boosts their trust in you and encourages them to continue giving.

Highlight donors’ impact in the following ways:

  • Create a personalized impact report. Personalized stewardship strategies make donors feel recognized and appreciated as individuals. Use tools like your nonprofit CRM to compile data that illustrates the tangible difference that each donor’s gift made. Include personalized thank you videos or handwritten notes from community members who were positively impacted by these gifts.
  • Invite major donors to tour your nonprofit’s facilities or headquarters to see the impact of their work in person. Show donors the new equipment or supplies their gifts helped purchase or the new construction project you launched with their support.
  • Build trust by answering questions. Donors might have additional concerns or questions not addressed in your impact materials. Be sure to respond to donors’ questions promptly and transparently.

Contributing a major donation requires a lot of trust on the part of donors. Show them their investment was worth it by highlighting how your organization used their gifts to make the greatest possible impact.

2. Highlight other ways to get involved

Encourage major donors to engage with your mission on a deeper level by exploring additional opportunities alongside donating. Through this involvement, major donors can get to know your staff and volunteers and build personal relationships with them.

Here are some additional roles you could invite major donors to take on:

  • Board membership. Invite major donors with a strong affinity for your cause and a desire to get more deeply involved to apply for board membership.
  • Volunteering. Spotlight volunteer opportunities that align with donors’ interests and passions. For example, if you know a certain major donor has a soft spot for your afterschool tutoring program, let them know how they can get involved and sign up for a training session.
  • Advocacy. Major donors who are community leaders, such as business owners, might be well-positioned to advocate for your cause and spread the word about your mission to other businesses, community members, and government officials.

Some major donors may prefer to stay hands-off, so be sure to respect their boundaries. But for those who’d like to get more involved, make an effort to offer experiences that align with their skills and interests. Track donors’ interactions and interests using your donor management software to make accurate recommendations.

3. Ask donors for their input

Show major donors that you value their feedback and want to create a positive experience for them. Using donor surveys, you can learn about major donors’ needs and interests to better appeal to their motivations.

Consider asking questions like:

  • What led you to give to our organization?
  • What aspects of our mission resonate with you the most?
  • How satisfied are you with the giving process? Is there anything you would change about the process?
  • What is your preferred communication method?
  • Do you have any other suggestions for how we can improve your experience as a major donor?

Compile donors' responses and outline a strategy for addressing their input and concerns. Follow up with donors one-on-one to communicate your plan and reassure them that you’re taking their suggestions seriously.

4. Request additional gifts strategically

After building donor relationships, you’ll be ready to ask for another gift. But make sure to approach this ask strategically. A well-timed, thoughtfully-researched ask can strengthen donor relationships even more, paving the way for long-term support.

Use donors’ past gift amounts and your prospect research to identify the right amount to ask for. AI tools can help streamline the prospect research process and help you effectively tailor your ask amount for each donor. For example, DonorSearch’s wealth and philanthropic screening tools can give you a better understanding of each donor’s giving capacity and past donations they’ve made to similar organizations.

Bloomerang’s major donor guide also recommends moving donors to your legacy or planned giving track when appropriate. Some donors may give relatively less annually compared to your other major donors but have the desire and ability to leave a large bequest in their will.

When you spend the time getting to know your donors, you’ll be able to determine the type of request they will respond best to.

About the Author: Joshua Meyer

Joshua Meyer brings more than 20 years of fundraising, volunteer management, and marketing experience to his current role as the VP of Demand Generation for Bloomerang. As a member of the Bloomerang marketing team, Josh manages the organization’s growth marketing efforts. Through his previous roles at the Human Rights Campaign and OneCause, he has a passion for helping to create positive change and helping nonprofits engage new donors and achieve their fundraising goals.