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Want larger gifts? Focus on solid donor recognition

Major gift recruitment starts with relationship building; it’s a process that can blossom over years of connecting with donors who may have started as volunteers, slowly moved to one-time gifts, then larger monthly donations until finally, they make a sizeable donation to your nonprofit.

The process to ensure your major donors receive adequate recognition is just as important as the research itself in finding those donors to begin with. Start with donor data and research, provide multiple ways to give, and build a solid donor recognition strategy that supports your larger donation asks.

Find your major donors

Start with your CRM to mine your database for major donors. Track past donation actions (how often they give and gift amounts) and record contacts’ involvement with your nonprofit—do they serve on a committee or your board? Do they regularly volunteer or attend events? Can you assign a value to the strength of their commitment to your organization?

Personal interests and their involvement in your community can provide information about their additional affiliations, commitments or even wealth indicators. Set up your donor database to keep track of these key pieces of information and pull reports on a regular basis to connect with these donors through established touchpoints year round.

Don’t discount online giving

While many major gifts come through more traditional tactics such as mailed checks or fund transfers, online donations for major gifts do happen. But, you won’t know the likelihood of these gifts until you ask. Create online giving campaigns aimed specifically at larger gifts—use donation landing pages to suggest giving levels or offer recognition for specific gift amounts. Showcase the impact of these higher giving levels and provide an opportunity for your donors to share their donations through social media or emails. Build a website and donation page that showcases your story, provides quality pictures and writing, and ensure security measures are in place for those online transactions The set-up of your online giving pages can dictate validity and trust of those visiting.

For larger donors, think about providing them with additional perks such as

  • A giving society based on donation amounts where they can receive additional perks.
  • Exclusive benefits such as discounted tickets to events, customized swag or premium access to your offerings.
  • Specialized donation pages that they can share with family and friends or build upon to showcase why they give to your organization (think P2P landing pages).
  • Additional donor recognition outside of those that give at lower amounts; make your larger donors feel special for being in an ‘elite’ category of donors with special recognitions and events.

Donor recognition goes a long way

One of the top reasons donors lapse is because they weren’t thanked for their donation. And large gifts don’t typically happen overnight – these are donors that you’ve cultivated over the years and who likely have made smaller gifts, receiving recognition along the way. The way you recognize your donors matters.

That means a well-thought-out donor recognition strategy should be built before going after big-time donors. Build relationships and foster engagement with key prospects and build donor personas for different giving levels to determine the types of recognition that work well for your donors.

For example, monthly donors at a certain giving amount may receive automated emails and hand-written cards throughout the year whereas a one-time donor who gives upwards of $10,000 may receive a plaque—one for them and one that remains onsite at your organization. Think of what you will do for your smaller and larger donors and be consistent in your recognition methods. A few major gift donor recognition ideas include:

  • Donor recognition walls or fixtures
  • Personal phone calls
  • Standard donor plaques
  • Donor-only appreciation events
  • Branded items

Public recognition isn’t always where it’s at

Understand that not all donors—major or otherwise—need the public bells and whistles when they make a large gift. Respect those donors who wish to remain anonymous. You may still recognize their gift internally or with a personal note or phone call of gratitude, but also be respectful of their wishes not to broadcast their name along with the donation made.

Additional resources

For more ideas on converting website visitors to donors or to think through a solid donor retention plan that includes ways to recognize donors for their gifts, check out these free webinars:

Ronald Pruitt

Ronald Pruitt

Ronald is the President and Founder of 4aGoodCause, a simple and effective fundraising CRM that specializes in earning recurring revenue for nonprofits through monthly giving. For 25 years, Ronald has had the joy of doing what he loves, building online solutions that make a difference in the world. He’s helped raise millions of dollars online for small nonprofits across the country. Connect with Ronald on LinkedIn.

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