Major Donors

What do major donors want?

Two strategies will prompt your donors to give again and again.

This list is going to sound shocking simple. But it’s research-based (thank you Penelope Burk, Donor-Centered Fundraising Second Edition).

Here are the keys to the major gift kingdom:

1. Major donors want to know what difference their gift made (gift impact)

  • They want to know what their money did each and every time they make a gift. What was accomplished thanks to that gift?
  • They want to know about the impact of the gift they most recently made before they are asked for another gift. Consider an “Impact Report”—which can be a one-pager.

2. Major donors want to be thanked promptly and personally (per Penelope) and often (keep building the relationship)

  • Promptly (pick up the phone)
  • Personally
  • Heartfelt hand-written notes continue to be the gold standard—even more so in this digital era.
  • A compelling, personal, 30-second thank you video or special photo can also be heart-warming. Looking for sincere gratitude—not production values. Reasonable mobile phone quality that is easy to see and hear is fine.

Note: The IRS-required thank you, even beautifully written with a sparkling first sentence and personal note, is not sufficient.

Recommendation: Create a “thank you/impact strategy” for each of your major donors. Consider at least four “touches” between gifts. Timing can’t always be predicted. Send news when it’s newsworthy.

Mix-up the “touches,” which should include an Impact Report and might include:

  • An initial thank you series: call, hand-written note, IRS-required documentation provided in a compelling letter (with IRS info at the bottom or as an enclosure)
  • An email with an article attached that might be of interest to the donor
  • Your newsletter with a note attached
  • News
  • Coffee with the donor where you simply provide an update and/or ask for advice
  • A birthday or Thanksgiving card
  • An invitation to an exclusive event
  • A conversation at an event

Report gift impact and thank right away and often. That’s it!

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