By Dana Wynkoop

Donor relations governances is the foundation of major gift fundraising, and not all that different from any other kind of kinship, but maintaining relationships can be a challenge that takes time and effort.

Moves Management – Things move fast in the fundraising world, and many organizations are understaffed and short on resources. An effective moves-management-system can automate workflow, and generate high-quality Stewardship Reports that detail nuanced interactions; felicitating focused, custom action plans, making it posable to maintain relations with those who have already made major gifts.

  • Database utilization captures and records viable data /action steps, and analyzing results; ensuring successful communications and donor support.
  • Create a communication calendar for ongoing donor interactions to keep supporters in touch with the organization on regular bases.
  • Tracking Gift Agreements clarifies expectations that can protect both the organization and the donor. Include gift amounts, timeframes and the purpose of the contribution. Efficient gift tracking facilitates lasting trust with donors.
  • Annual National Change of Address (NCOA) verifies new addresses. About 40 million Americans move every year, and it’s estimated that about 8% of their mail is undeliverable. Undeliverable mail because of a wrong address means organizations can lose out on donors if contact information isn’t continually updated.

Thank – Adequately thanking a donor can make or break a relationship and it can’t be stressed enough how important it is to send them a prompt, written letter of thanks. Sending timely and personalized acknowledgments make donors feel appreciated and remembered.

  • Send a personal “Thank You” letter to the donor to include the signatures of key stakeholders.
  • For more substantial gifts, consider a personal thank you call from a board member and or staff member as well as sending an acknowledgment letter.
  • Include gift receipts in acknowledgments which serve as a tax receipt in accordance with IRS regulations.
  • Generate reports to donors who contribute to an endowed fund; include an accounting of the principal balance, the amount of generated interest, how much money was spent, and how funds were used.

Communicate – It is critically important to respect and listen to the donor’s needs and wants, so they feel respected and valued. Remember, the organization could not exist without its supporters.

  • Keep in touch with major donors through periodical updates on programs and services, makes donors feel like they are a part of the organization and that they are included.
  • Consider a follow-up meeting a month after the donor makes their gift, to solidify their engagement.
  • For more substantial donations; consider a personal thank you call from a board member or staff member. A special gift deserves a special thank you.

Involve – If donors are kept at arm’s length and organizations only interact with them when they need to meet funding goals; donors will feel disengaged and frankly will feel used for their money and not feel appreciated for their passion for the charity. Allow and create opportunities for donors to give their time and talent and not just money.

  • Creating volunteer positions for donors to secure their ongoing support is an excellent way for donors feel a part of what is going on within a charity, making them feel needed and wanted.
  • Surveys can also help donors to feel like their input and feedback is important, and their opinions matter in forwarding the mission of a charity.
  • Having donors serve on a committee personalize a donor’s experience and brings them closer and causes them to feel more connected to the organization.

Honor – Showing public gratitude magnifies positive feelings and solidifies a donor’s emotional investment, making it all the more likely for them to stay involved with the charity, leading to their strong and continues support.

  • Produce an annual report that includes the recognition of individual donors.
  • On the organization’s website, social media outlets, and newsletter; recognize individual donor’s contributions.
  • Produce a tribute video to publicly thank top donors and post it across all the organization’s social media outlets.
  • Create tiered recognition with unique and exclusive benefits, such as offering tickets to events or an invitation to a private reception featuring a special guest.
  • Make naming opportunities to recognize top donors and principal gifts with permanent, physical monuments such as a plaque or display with the donor’s name on it.
  • Have a recognition/appreciation event that includes public acknowledgments and invite the donor as a “special guests” to share why they support the organization.

Annual Review – Reevaluate donor recognition and stewardship practices every year to measure donor retention and involvement. An organization needs to continually assess its relationship building practices to stay current and relevant.

  • Ever-stronger relationships lead existing donors to a greater commitment, which is likely to lead to them make larger and more substantial gifts.
  • Major donors have already expressed their love and dedication to the organization, so it takes fewer resources, (time, money and effort) to renew or upgrade a current donor than it does to find, cultivate, and engage new prospects.
  • Engaged donors are more likely to recommend a charity to their friends, family, and associates, making it possible to broaden a loyal pool of donors.
  • A positive donor relation enhances the reputation of the organization and its standing in the community.

If people don’t believe in the charity’s cause and if a nonprofit isn’t willing to put in the time to build a relationship, they’re not going to turn first-time donors into true supporters.

Those organizations that honor due-diligence and are willing to invest by actively nurturing relationships, prioritizing and maintaining connections with integrity will lead to profound donor partnerships. Such attention to supporters guarantees a charity will flourish and successfully meet the intentions of the mission.

Dana Wynkoop lives in Los Angeles and has worked in nonprofit on and off since 2003.