3 underused ways to connect with your major donors

Two hands holding puzzle pieces make silhouettes through a sunset

We’ve all been there.

Racking our brains for a meaningful reason to reach out to a major donor, deepen your relationship, and hopefully, move ever closer to a mutually transformative gift (because philanthropy can change a donor’s life too!)

Being persistent and consistent in your connection with donors is key to your fundraising success – but it’s so easy to get bogged down in overthinking your touchpoints with existing and potential donors.

We spend way too much time worrying about getting it perfect, and in doing so, we let great opportunities to simply and humanly connect with our donors just pass us by.

Here are three of my favourite underused ways to connect with major donors – and even though I’m talking about major donors here, any of these ideas can be adapted to build relationships with any of your donors, volunteers, or supporters.

1. Personalized video

I know, we’ve been talking about using video in fundraising for a while now – but I think it’s under-utilized in general, and particularly in major gifts.

These days, with simple video creation tools like Loom or Dubb, you can quickly create highly personalized updates, check-ins, or thank you messages, and even embed them right in your email to a donor.

Forget about fancy production values – your goal here is to authentically connect with the donor, so you don’t need scripts and fancy lighting and extensive editing.

Imagine sending a quick video showing the impact of a donor’s gift – the possibilities really are endless.

You could do an “unboxing” of a crucial new piece of equipment a donor funded, or a walkthrough of a busy program morning at your organization.

You could record a personalized thank you message from your ED or CEO, or just send a quick, timely update from your desk if there’s been a new development on a project they’re supporting.

Video can’t take the place of live connection and interaction with your donor – but boy, can it add a powerful tool to your touchpoint toolbox!

2. A simple and spontaneous “thinking of you”

This is one of my favourites ways of staying in touch with colleagues and clients.

Sometimes, you’re just thinking of them, and why not let them know?

Obviously, you want this to be in the mix with lots of more meaty connections - but every touch doesn’t have to be loaded with content, or driving towards an end result or commitment.

It’s okay, especially with those donors you know well, just to say hello, you’re thinking of them, hope they’re doing well, and you’d love to catch up when they’re able.

The key here, as with any touchpoint, is to know your donor.

This may not be the place to start with a donor who’s all business - but it can be a great way to get in touch and stay front of mind with a donor you’ve got a strong connection with.

3. Celebrating milestones

Whether you’re recognizing them for their long-time giving, or marking a cultural celebration that’s important to them, you can stand out from the crowd by thoughtfully celebrating your donors’ milestones.

There are so many ways to respectfully gather information about birthdays, anniversaries, retirement dates, and other important milestones: donor surveys, public posts and profiles on social media, and my favourite - listening carefully!

When a donor mentions an upcoming celebration in conversation, make note of it, and where appropriate, record it in your database – and when the date rolls around, celebrate!

Send a card, give them a call, or shoot them a quick email.

No matter how you’re reaching out to your donor, the key with any touch is to do it with sincerity and authenticity.

I know we throw the word authenticity around a lot these days – but truly, if you are just executing the latest move in your moves management system without heart and sincerity, it’s going to show in your fundraising results.

I hope these ideas will inspire you to get creative with your donor touches – now go block out some time in your calendar for this top priority, and get connecting!

Emma Lewzey, CFRE is an award-winning fundraising expert with 20+ years experience raising over $100M across the arts, education, health and human services sectors. Find out how to raise more 5, 6 and 7-figure donations your non-profit - book your free Major Gift Strategy Session now.

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