Cultivating High Value Donors

By Karen Climer

Reprinted from FundRasing Success Magazine, July 01 2008 Issue

Like it or not, the majority of our major-gifts prospects simply are not impressed with our technical knowledge. Instead, they want a birthday card, a phone call or a heartfelt thank-you. Below are 45 ways to nurture your higher-value donors:

  1. Send your donors birthday cards.
  2. For milestone anniversaries, send flowers.
  3. Send holiday cards.
  4. Invite them on tours of your facility. Have someone who benefits from the organization’s work on hand to say thank you.
  5. Have someone who benefits from the organization’s work call donors.
  6. Have someone who benefits from the organization’s work visit donors.
  7. Have someone who benefits from the organization’s work write letters describing how the organization has helped.
  8. Have board members call or write thank-you notes to donors.
  9. When an article about your organization appears in the local news, send it to donors. Attach a note that says, “With your help we are able to help more students than we ever thought possible. Thank you.”
  10. When you send out your regular newsletter, attach a note that says, “I think you’ll like the photos of the children on Page 6. The new pediatric ward was possible because of your support.”
  11. Ask donors for advice, and let them know of any success as a result of following that advice.
  12. The day a check arrives, have someone call the donor and say thank you.
  13. Forget the 48-hour rule. Send your thank-you letters within 24 hours of receiving a gift.
  14. Add a handwritten PS to thank-you letters.
  15. Personally sign your thank-you letters. Don’t use a computer signature.
  16. Send donors articles that might interest them – even if they have nothing to do with your organization. Sometimes it’s better if they have nothing to do with your organization – that tells donors that you’re interested in them as people and not as checkbooks.
  17. Give donors a direct number to reach you.
  18. Invite donors to serve on a committee or on a board.
  19. Send donors artwork created by your clients
  20. If you work with kids, ask donors to chaperone events such as field trips or parties.
  21. Issue media releases about major gifts.
  22. Invite donors to events. Beyond galas and auctions, invite them to graduations, backstage cast parties, VIP briefings. Make them feel like they’re “in” on things.
  23. After an event, send donors pictures of themselves with their friends.
  24. Send a newsletter (at least quarterly) and annual report to keep donors informed.
  25. Send updates about the fundraising status of projects (include photos and live webcam video of construction, etc.)
  26. Send keepsakes from a major-gift announcement or event – memory books, albums, framed photographs, DVDs.
  27. Take out a thank-you ad in the local newspaper.
  28. Send your audited financial statements.
  29. Nominate your donors for awards.
  30. Ask your donors to read a draft copy of your case statement. Solicit their feedback.
  31. With corporations and foundations, send handwritten notes. Form letters go into your file – handwritten notes get circulated around the office.
  32. Introduce donor to the leaders of the organization – board members, administrative officials and program staff.
  33. Attach personal messages to your direct mail.
  34. Ask donors to host receptions or gatherings of select donors and prospects to promote the successes of the organization or to inform donors and prospects about the progress of a program.
  35. Ask donor if they have friends or colleagues who’d be interested in your organization.
  36. Join prospects at concerts, races, games, walks or other events when they extend invitations to do so.
  37. Have the leaders of the organization periodically call, write personal notes or e-mail prospects after they’ve met, just to keep them informed about the organization.
  38. Attend your donors’ events, such as office holiday open houses or the new branch ribbon cuttings. You expect them to attend your events.
  39. Promptly follow up on their inquiries.
  40. If you work for a university or school, send the school newsletter occasionally.
  41. Send handwritten notes to people you normally only exchange e-mails with.
  42. Ask your donors to tell you their stories about your cause.
  43. Bring donors along to the airport to pick up celebrities and other special guests for your events.
  44. If the organization is given an award, invite donors to attend the award ceremony.
  45. Send a thank-you note for no reason that says, “I was watching the kids on the playground, and I thought about how you made it happen. Thank you for your support of the youth center.”

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