Tap Into the Heartbeat of a Major Donor

By Erik Rogers, Chief Strategist Major Gift Services

Donors don’t make large donations simply because an organization has a worthy cause. But that’s what some organizational leaders expect.

In fact, some leaders believe that supporters will naturally give large amounts after hearing a brief description of their organization and what it does. Some even get frustrated when donors don’t respond to this approach.

But you need to form some sort of strategy before you approach a donor – one that combines knowledge of the supporter’s abilities and passions with concrete ways your organization fits with their interests and convictions. So, before you meet with a donor and present them with a proposal to support, be sure to answer these questions: 

Does the donor have the capacity to help your organization?

If you’re investing personal time with a donor, then you need to make sure he or she has the ability to help your organization meet its goals. This doesn’t mean that all supporters aren’t worthwhile – it just means your time is valuable and you should spend it strategically. Researching a donor’s capacity to give also helps you tailor your ask amount to either their gift history or aptitude.

Does the donor understand how your organization makes a difference?

The donor needs to know why your organization exists, and how it makes an impact. That must be clear before you can start developing a relationship.

Does this supporter trust you?

A donor needs to know that you’re going to carry out your promises, so you must do what you say you’re going to do with their investment. You also need to maintain clear communication. Tell the donor about your plans for their donation up front and then report back after you’ve completed your project. Let them know how their generosity is changing lives.

How does the donor align with the mission of your organization?

God has made each one of our donors unique, but they all want to understand how your organization makes a difference, how the organizational mission aligns with the ways in which God made them, and how God wants them to invest in His purpose(s).

To connect with a donor’s interests and convictions on a personal level, it’s vital you know the supporter well – so you can discuss the best way they might partner with your ministry.

For example, maybe a donor has a heartbeat for orphaned children because they’ve brought an orphan into their home. Therefore, if you have a program that focuses specifically on foster care or adoption, you need to make sure that donor knows about it and they are presented with an opportunity to invest.

If you want more advice about building relationships with major donors, check out Erik’s Dunham Institute course, Major Gift Development: Your Case for Support.


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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.