The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Five Ways to Cultivate Your Donors—Personally

We say you must have two personal contacts per year with each of your major donors. Here are five suggestions for the most personal and effective ways to keep in touch and develop a relationship with each donor:

  1. Call them! Have your CEO or a board member call your donors, whether it is to thank them, invite them to an event, ask for their input or feedback on an idea, or share a new issue or challenge your organization is facing.
  2. Have your CEO send out an e-mail to all your major donors every month. It needs to be more like a personal e-mail “letter” you would send a family member or group of family members updating them on your life.
  3. Know which part of your work your donors care about most. Once a year, make sure you call or meet with your donors to inform them personally about how particular programs have benefited from their support. Give them specific numbers, such as the number of additional people served, lives saved, families fed, etc.
  4. Take them to lunch. Meet with your donors face-to-face once a year and ask for their feedback. We call this an 80/20 meeting. Spend 80% of the time listening and only 20% talking. Ask what advice they have for you. Find out how you could be doing a better job of telling your story in the community. Share some of the challenges your organization is facing. Let your hair down a bit. Don’t forget: 80% listening!
  5. Host a small-group. Schedule a 80/20 lunch for no more than 10 major donors at a time. Follow up afterward to see if they have more ideas for you—and if they have anyone else to send your way.

By continuing to tend and nurture each donor relationship, these same major donors will keep giving to your organization, often in substantially increasing amounts.

About the author:
Terry Axelrod, founder and CEO of Benevon, has worked in the fund development field for over 30 years. A dynamic, sought-after speaker both nationally and internationally, Terry’s high-energy trainings take the fear out of individual fundraising and give participants a practical, do-able system for long-term financial sustainability. Benevon trains and coaches nonprofit organizations to implement a mission-based system for raising sustainable funding from individual donors. This system ends the suffering about fundraising and builds passionate and committed lifelong donors. For more information, visit

*Editor’s note: This article was originally published on June 5, 2009 and has been updated.



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Carrie Saracini
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