Why You Need to Classify Your Donors

by Erik Rogers, Chief Strategist Major Gifts Services

You’re meeting a donor for lunch and having a hard time remembering what you talked about at your previous appointment. What initially engaged their interest? What keeps them connected? What support are they able to provide? And where do their particular passions lie?

What if you had a database to help classify each specific donor relationship?

Let’s look at the four key areas of stage classification when it comes to donors in your portfolio:

1. Identification

This is the first stage designated to a donor within the database. You may only have a name and an address!

Here’s the governing thought process: “Who is this donor? Do they have the capacity to give what my organization has deemed as necessary for a major gift donor? Are they interested in building a relationship with us?”

2. Cultivation

Once you’ve identified the donor and you’re confident in their interest and capacity, they move to the cultivation stage. 

It’s time to get to know them!

Here we ask, “Who are they and why do they care? Why did they give that first gift, and why do they continue to give? What is it about our organization that’s near and dear to their heart?”

Once you can answer these questions, you know what to present to them so you don’t waste their time with things they don’t care about.

3. Solicitation

Now that you know this donor’s capacity, interest, and what they care about, you can move them to the solicitation stage.

You know how their heartbeat aligns with your mission and vision. Now you can focus on the areas in which that donor is interested in making a difference. For instance, if your organization has five or six specific programs, this donor may only be interested in one.

At this point, you ask that donor to make a gift at a level that’s higher or more than they’ve given before, focusing on that one area of interest. 

4. Stewardship

During this stage, you go out of your way to make this donor feel appreciated and valued. You want to show them in very clear terms the impact their giving has made. They need to truly sense your gratitude and recognize the real-world effect of their generosity.

At the same time, be clear and realistic within your database about what you expect these donors to give in the days ahead.

Each of these phases are crucial to knowing where you stand with your donors, and to keeping your major gift officers and executive staff apprised of the donor’s stage in the maturation process.

Now you really know who you’re meeting and how best to partner with them for success… not to mention, you’re ready for lunch!

For more tips on building a solid infrastructure for your organization around your major gift development program, be sure to check out my Dunham Institute Course.


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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.