Targeting your Major Donors

You have profiled and researched your major donors.

Now is the fun part known as “cultivations,” or perhaps courtship.

Essentially it means you establish a relationship with a person. It’s not rocket science, it’s basic human interaction. It doesn’t have to be seedy or subversive either. And it usually happens in one of three ways:

  1. You meet a person at an event or an outing
  2. You are introduced to that person through a mutual contact
  3. You pick up the phone and call the person

An introduction from a mutual friend is the best way to meet a major donor, for obvious reasons. It is more comfortable, more natural, and it comes with a recommendation.

Calling someone on the phone it is a lot more difficult. You are calling them coldly, you have never met them before, and you have very little information about them.  Now you must call them and magically create rapport and a relationship. If that sounds intimidating, then it is.

But it doesn’t necessarily have to be.  I find that the best way to call someone is to have an excuse to call.

The best excuse I know is to call and thank them for the past support.  Thanking donors is the best thing that you can do. As a habit, your organization should call all individual donors and say thank you. If that sounds time consuming, then organize a bunch of volunteers for a 2-hour thank-a-thon.  It works.  Nobody has ever gotten upset or offended for being thanked, recognized, and appreciated.

So the first phone call is important.  You may not have a lot of time on the phone with them, but the goal is to speak for as long as possible. Ask the following:

  • Why do they support your organization?
  • What other organizations do they support?
  • How familiar are they with your organization’s programs and achievements?

Make sure you find an excuse to follow-up with them:

  • Do you have an event coming up that you can invite them to?
  • Is there an activity that they should come and see?
  • Are they willing to let you come and visit them at their home so that you can thank them in person?

The ultimate goal here is a personal visit. More on what to do during a visit in a future entry.

Everything begins with a personal visit.  The start of a relationship.

The headline for this entry is misleading. You are not targeting major donors at all, and you shouldn’t talk that way. Instead, you are cultivating relationships. Doesn’t that sound a lot more fun and less nerve-wracking.  Who knows, perhaps you will make life long friends along the way.


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