Turning A Regular Donor Into A Major Donor


Every successful nonprofit has their own strategy for creating relationships with donors and encouraging them to get involved with their organization in some capacity. Though it may seem like an unnecessary effort at face value, research shows that taking the time to personally reach out to potential major donors yields more positive results than a simple ask alone.

With the number of 501(c)(3)’s, fundraising opportunities, and church outreach programs increasing, the competition for a donor’s interest is higher than ever before. In many cases, going the extra mile to make a connection with a potential donor could make the difference between a dedicated giver, and a closed door. In order to yield positive results from your donor outreach efforts, follow the basic structure below.

Identify Your Prospects

It goes without saying that all nonprofits are constantly looking for new supporters. But, how well-defined is your idea of what a supporter should look like? Ambiguous statements about finding individuals to help fund your latest giving campaign typically fall on deaf ears among your nonprofit fundraisers, and, in the unlikely chance they result in action, are not likely to yield lasting results for your nonprofit. For these reasons, it’s important to take the time to do your research and establish particular demographics your nonprofit should be targeting. If your organization employs a CRM to help you identify lapsed donors, or donors with a high affinity for your organization, take the time to source what connections you’ve already made for some ideas of where to start reaching out. If your nonprofit does not have access to a donor database, then do a simple Google search on ‘wealthiest zip codes’ in your area. You may be surprised by the amount of leads you can find in this manner.

Connect With Them In Person

After your nonprofit’s fundraising representatives have sourced a list of potential major donors to reach out to, it’s important to lay the groundwork for a relationship before you consider asking them to contribute financially to your organization. Suggest a meeting with this individual, in person, in order to establish your relationship with them. Your goal for the first few meetings is to explain your nonprofit’s mission and gain an understanding of the individual’s goals for their fundraising contribution. By the end of this initial meeting, you should have gained an idea of whether or not this individual is truly a major gifts prospect for your organization – if so, talk about future meetings and ask permission to contact them again in the future with more information.


If the initial meeting with a potential donor went well, and you feel positive about pursuing further communication, it’s important to regularly reach out to them with information about your organization or with a follow up. If an individual seems to be a likely prospect to become a major donor, he or she is probably on the invite list to any events your organization may be holding. Whenever event invites are distributed, be sure to follow up with a quick call. If large scale events don’t seem personal enough, consider hosting smaller group dinners or other cultivation events. The purpose of this stage is to make your potential donor feel welcome and comfortable with your organization. The more willing they are to get involved with your organization and interact with you, the more likely they are to respond in the affirmative when asked to make a financial contribution.

You’re Ready For The Ask!

Have you met your prospect face-to-face? Does he or she know at least two people, including yourself, at your organization? Has your prospect attended at least one event hosted by your nonprofit? If you can answer yes to at least two of the above questions, you’re ready to reach out to your prospect for a financial commitment. During your ask, be direct and honest, but don’t put too much pressure on the individual. If all goes well, you will have successfully sourced a new major giver for your organization.

Creating a personal relationship with your donor can yield a number of benefits. Individuals respond better to personal interaction than they do to automated emails – for this reason a human element in nonprofit fundraising is essential. Though the donor cultivation process can seem lengthy, it is necessary to create lasting relationships with your nonprofit’s substantial givers.