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How to retain major gift donors – 3 simple tips

Major Gift Fundraising, Nonprofit Fundraising

Major gift prospects are hard to find.

And once you do find them it takes quite a bit of work to build the relationship necessary to earn that first major gift.

That’s why it’s so important to have a major gift donor retention strategy.

Sure, they’ve made a substantial investment in your organization…

But that by itself is not enough to guarantee they’ll stick around.

You’ve invested too much time and energy to earn that first major gift donation to let them walk away.

Below are three tips that will help you retain major gift donors.

Make sure you take the time to think through the best way for your nonprofit to apply them and be sure to incorporate each of them into your major gift donor retention strategy.

How to retain major gift donors tip 1: Treat them well

Your major gift donors have been very generous in their support. You need to make sure your appreciation is equally as generous.

An automated “Thanks for your donation” isn’t going to cut it here.

Do better.

Put yourself in their shoes. Then ask yourself:

“What would make me feel appreciated?”

It could be a hand written thank you note from the CEO.

Or a phone call from your board of directors.

Maybe it’s a thank you video from a beneficiary.

There are countless options but make sure it is clear you are making a big gesture with this thank you.

You also want to make sure your appreciation helps reinforce that they made the right decision.

The best way to do this is to maintain their emotional connection between their donation and your mission.

How do you do that?

Tie their investment to a story of a single beneficiary whose life has been positively impacted.

You also need to have a plan for how you will keep them up-to-date on how their investment has been used and what outcomes have been achieved?

Emphasize how their investment resulted in specific achievements toward your mission.

Be creative and really take the time to get these things right.

It will make a huge difference in how the major gift donor feels about their investment and their willingness to do it again.


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How to retain major gift donors tip 2: Treat them differently

Major gift donors have made a substantial contribution to your nonprofit.

If you want them to do it again down the road then you need to roll out the red carpet and give them the VIP treatment.

They need to know that that have access to you or another designated focal point at your office.

Ask them if they would like to be more closely involved?

Are they interested in volunteering or leading a committee?

Don’t pressure them. Just be sure to give them every opportunity they might want as a significant investor in your work.

Warning: Don’t suddenly change communication channels just because they gave a major gift.

You’ve set a precedent for how you will communicate with them and they’ve agreed to this precedent.

Don’t violate this implicit agreement on how you will communicate.

For example, if you fostered the relationship with them through email don’t suddenly remove them from all email lists and only try to communicate with them over the phone.

Keep sending them email messages, just be sure they are segmented and only receive email messages intended for major gift donors.

How to retain major gift donors tip 3: Tell their story

Your success in cultivating this donor into making their first major gift is a story worth telling.

But not with you as the hero.

The real hero of this story is the major gift donor.

Ask them if they’d be willing to let you tell their story.

If they agree then schedule a time to interview them.

Make sure you are well prepared for this interview.

Know what questions you need to ask and make sure you identify the key elements of great nonprofit stories.

Once you get the bigger details out of the way, dive back into some of the key points in the story and be sure to dig up all of the vivid details you’ll need to make the story come to life.

Why is this so powerful at improving major gift donor retention?

Not only will they feel humbled and appreciated by your desire to tell their story, but they now feel an even stronger connection to your organization.

They now feel their story is part of your story and vice-versa.

You have strengthened their feeling of being interconnected with your nonprofit.

Now just make sure you honor their story and tell it honestly.


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  1. Earning major gift donations is a lot of work so you need to make sure you have a plan for retaining them as donors.
  2. Be generous in your appreciation, maintain their emotional connection to your mission, and keep in touch with updates on their investment.
  3. Treat them differently but be consistent in the type of communication that has been effective.
  4. Interview them so you understand their story and why they chose to give so generously. Then tell that story well. This will strengthen their connection to your organizations.

Keep doing good work,
Jeremy Signature



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