Seven Strategies for Building Meaningful Major-donor Relationships
Relationship building. You probably hear that phrase from colleagues in our profession at least once a day. But what does it really mean? And how do you make it happen with your organization’s major donors?
Not long ago, DRM meant sending out mass mailings and seeing which pasta strands stuck to the wall. Today, DRM is much more sophisticated. And when it comes to nonprofit major-gift programs, DRM is about individual targeting that results in long-term — ideally life-long and beyond — relationships with your donors. Here’s how to do it:
1. Communicate effectively. In other words, if a major donor specifically requests that you send her all communications by mail — and never call or send e-mails — make sure you do just that.
2. Send a survey. I know, I know — you’re thinking, “Oh no, not another survey!” But they work. And they give you the information you need to understand each major donor’s individual needs and desires. Not to mention what surveys do to engage your donor with the organization. Remember: Everyone’s favorite subject is themselves.
3. Invite them to events. Not just those old-school galas and house parties. Also ask them to attend VIP phone briefings, site visits and/or virtual (online) gatherings. Those who attend will feel bonded with the organization, and those who don’t will feel like they’re part of the in-crowd for being asked.
4. Provide individualized programmatic updates. One of the questions you’ll ask on the survey is, “Which of our programs is of most interest to you?” When you send a press release, program report or other update to a donor, make sure to highlight the program that means the most to that specific person.
5. Say thank you over and over again. There is still nothing more effective than a warm, personal and handwritten thank-you note. But keep in mind that some of today’s tech-savvy donors prefer e-mail acknowledgements and accommodate them accordingly.
6. Give appropriate recognition. When your donors receive their personal copy of your annual report, what do you think they read first? Believe it or not, they turn to the donor recognition page(s) and look for their name. So it better be there — and spelled correctly. And depending on their gift level, each donor also should be recognized with certificates, plaques, room/building naming opportunities, etc.
7. Listen, listen, listen. When you effectively communicate, read each survey response carefully, promote engaging events, provide targeted programmatic updates, say thank you sincerely, and bestow appropriate recognition, what you are really doing is listening — and responding in a meaningful way — to what your donor is saying. When it comes to raising essential funds to fulfill your critical mission, what’s more important than that?
Martha H. Schumacher, CFRE, is president of Hazen Inc, provider of fundraising counsel for nonprofit organizations throughout the United States, with a specialization in major gifts strategy, solicitation and training. Contact Martha via (202) 547-2974 or by e-mail at email@example.com