Should a Major Donor Receive General Communication?

Communication is key for a nonprofit organization’s success – especially when it comes to major donors. You need to keep them informed about what your organization is doing and how their support is making an impact.

But what’s the best way to communicate?

Should you put your high-level donors on your general communications list so they get your newsletters, emails, and updates? Or should you narrow their point of contact to a single major gift officer?

Believe it or not, this is a pressing question in the nonprofit world – and various organizations fall on either side of the debate. Let’s take a look at the case for each argument.

Designate a major gift officer as the main contact.

Many organizations place complete trust in their major gift officers, and for good reason. These are very talented and thoughtful people who should know high-end donors the best. They have developed deep relationships with supporters – maybe over the course of several years – and they understand how donors feel about their potential for impact.

That’s why some organizations limit the amount of communication a donor receives and filter all correspondence through one major gift officer. This decision can help strengthen the relationship and trust between the supporter and the officer, and possibly lead to a reliable stream of donations. Some nonprofits believe that certain high-end donors give as a direct result of the excellent relationships they enjoy with major gift staffers. 

Send general communication to major donors.

Other organizations may trust their major gift officers, but they also believe that communicating with high-end donors should be more of a group effort. They may direct their communication through their major gift staff, but other personnel also pitch in to help convey the organization’s passion and mission.

These nonprofits believe the broader approach shows supporters more about the organization and the people who run it. It positions the ministry as a cohesive whole – a group of people who have banded together for a cause. These ministries think that donors give because everyone on their staff has done their part.  

And that’s why they send general communication to major donors – because it gives those donors more contact with the overall ministry.

Which approach should you choose?

The answer to this question most often times lies in how high-end donors most likely began engaging with your organization in the first place, which more often than not, came through general communication.

Maybe they received your emails or direct mail pieces, or they saw your social media posts. They connected with your general communication, heard about the impact you are making in the world, and then fell in love with your ministry. Over time, that mass communication helped them become so aligned with your ministry through testimonies and updates that they became major donors, because they were compelled to want to help.

Of course, now, you communicate with high-end supporters largely through your major gifts department, but that original messaging first drew them to your ministry – so why not keep it going?

Simply put, let your major gift officers give input regarding when and how to send general communication, but allow your major donors to receive personalized and segmented communications from every area of your communications department.

Find more tips and best practices for communicating with major donors in Erik’s Dunham Institute course, Major Gift Development: Communication Planning.


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Ready to take the next step? Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters. Contact Bethany Cranfield at 469-454-0100 to get more information.

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