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Don’t Get Stuck in the Mud: 4 Tips to Build Strong Donor Relationships

The sparkly high of the new year with fresh beginnings has dulled, and we are now trudging through the mud of our signature Spring events. Are the flood waters of event details sweeping your focus away from the donor experience? Take 5, breathe, and zoom out to think about how your events weave into the donor experience instead of the other way around.

Tip 1: Identify Top Donors/Prospective Donors and Provide them Special Access

Think about how you will reach out to them before your fundraising event. What unique experience might you be able to provide pre-event that not only treats them to a social VIP experience, but enhances their understanding and connection to your mission, specific program, or project. Might they have direct access to a beneficiary and the impact story their donor dollar makes or a unique tool/activity that they would otherwise not experience.

Tip 2: Create a Moves Management Plan for Each of the Top Donors

In a digital world of output every millisecond of the day, we can get consumed by creating content and getting the message out about our mission, our vision, our programs, our needs… but what if we thought about our donors as we do any other person we have a relationship with? Create a three-part conversation meeting.

  • Step 1: Use your fundraising event as an excuse to follow up call to thank them for attending, get feedback on their experience, and schedule another coffee meeting.

  • Step 2: Get to know how the donor is connected to your mission personally, ask about their philanthropic priorities, their interests, and the kinds of things they like to financially support or volunteer to do.

  • Step 3: Ask them for advice or to get involved in a specific way.

Tip 3: Establish a Cultivation-Centric Event Schedule

In addition to those with whom you’ve committed to have an ongoing two-way conversation, establish a set time in your program headquarters to hold monthly or quarterly “get-to-know-the organization” more sessions. Involve key board members, staff, and program beneficiaries and script the information they each will share with community members. Set aside time for a behind-the-scenes tour and a Q&A session.

Tip 4: Communicate

Don’t forget to communicate with your donors, not just when you need something from them, but rather just to say thank you or to share the emotionally riveting results their dollars are having on the at-risk children, the abandoned animals, the elderly, or the sick—whomever the beneficiary. Remember the impact doesn’t always have to be gut-wrenching. Happiness, hope, excitement, and joy are part of the relatable human emotional experience that also continue to inspire donors. Consider inviting your donors to a special roll-out of your strategic plan/vision or for your most recent annual report.

To sign up for a 30-minute consultation on how we can help you strengthen your donor relationships, visit us at

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