5 Ways to Cultivate Major Donors

Cultivating major donors takes a whole different set of tools and strategies. From the appeals you send, to your follow-ups and ongoing stewardship, cultivating and retaining a major donor takes a more personal and distinctive approach combined with time and patience. Here are 5 ways you can cultivate major donors:

1. Segment, Segment, Segment
A great major donor program works to not only retain current donors but consistently grow their major donor group by identifying and appealing to prospects. The good news is your donor base can provide you with a solid list of potential major donors who already have a connection to your organization. Using data overlay, you can identify active donors who have the financial ability to give at a higher level, and include this list on your next major donor mailing.

2. Put a Shiny Bow on Your Appeal
OK, maybe not a bow, but your major donor appeals should be something a little more special. Handwritten appeals from your executive director or board chair with first-class postage on the outer and reply envelopes are a great go-to option. Not only does this piece stand out in the mail and look more personal, but it will also lift your response rate and average gift, giving you a strong net return.

3. Offer Up Perks
Let's face it, we all enjoy little perks here and there - a hotel upgrade, a free gift with purchase - so why not give your major donors and prospects a few perks. It need not be anything extravagant but a little can go a long way. A board-hosted dinner, special tour of your facilities or VIP event invitation makes them feel exclusive and at the same time, gets them more involved and connected with your organization.

4. Practice Superior Stewardship
Of course, you already send out newsletters and acknowledgements, but consider a little more for your donors that give a little more. Instead of the general newsletter or usual 'thank you' note, create a special newsletter and acknowledgement program just for major donors. A major donor newsletter could include a special note from your director, planned giving opportunities, capital campaign needs and naming opportunities. Add a personal note from your director or board chair to acknowledgements or send handwritten thank yous. For especially large donors, make a personal phone call or visit to thank them for their generous gift.

5. Have Patience and Persistence
Moving a donor into the major gift segment takes time and persistence. Some donors will say "Yes!" to your first appeal for a major gift, while some may say "Not now." Don't get discouraged - keep those major donor prospects on your appeal list. Maybe they need more time to think about it or want more information about why they should become a major donor. Be persistent and be patient - it will pay off.

Your furry friend,


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