Improving your donor retention rate is likely at the top of your nonprofit’s priority list. Your organization should seek to retain donors at all levels, but it’s especially essential to create a major donor retention plan. These donors typically make up only around 20% of a nonprofit’s donor base, but they contribute a staggering 80% of funding (this is known as the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule). 

According to a Bloomerang study, 53% of nonprofits say that major gifts are absolutely crucial for their organizations, but only 41% of nonprofits have a major gift strategy. With a clear major gift cultivation strategy, your organization can effectively retain major donors to support your ongoing fundraising efforts. 

As you develop your major donor retention approach, keep these four tips in mind: 

  1. Create personalized cultivation plans.
  2. Stay in touch over multiple platforms.
  3. Invite major donors to engage in new ways.
  4. Ask for another gift strategically.

With these strategies, you can kickstart sustainable major gift fundraising, build strong donor relationships, and ultimately save your organization time and money that would otherwise be spent on new donor acquisition. 

1. Create personalized cultivation plans.

Major donors contribute significantly to your cause, so your nonprofit should engage and nurture strong relationships with these individuals. By creating a personalized cultivation plan for each major donor, you can ensure that you’re giving these donors the time and attention they deserve. 

Follow these steps to develop more genuine relationships with your donors through personalized outreach: 

  • Learn about the projects and programs your donors are personally invested in. For instance, perhaps one major donor is also a longtime volunteer with a particular interest in supporting your volunteer program. Maybe another donor is a former recipient of your nonprofit’s support, and they have an affinity for your community outreach efforts. Find out the elements of your mission that major donors connect with and emphasize those aspects in your communications. 
  • Track all interactions with major donors using your donor management software. Your donor management system should allow you to view the history of every interaction you’ve had with each major donor. This includes every email they’ve opened, letter they’ve responded to, event or meeting they’ve attended, and phone call they’ve had with a team member. When you track donor engagement, you can build on your relationships using the information you learn from each interaction. For example, you can thank donors for attending your gala event in subsequent phone calls or ask for their feedback on your email communication strategy when you see them at your next in-person meeting. 
  • Create a major donor society. A major donor society is an exclusive club where donors can access specific perks based on their donation level. Send a personalized welcome message and let donors know what tier they are. For instance, your major donor society might offer tiers such as Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Then, let them know what perks they can access, such as invitations to exclusive events or nonprofit merchandise.

Show major donors that you’re dedicated to creating a personalized experience that appeals to their passions. In return, you’ll spark their interest and start developing long-lasting relationships. 

2. Stay in touch over multiple platforms.

Ongoing communication is key to keeping your major donors updated about your nonprofit’s projects and programs. Use your outreach to highlight the ways that donors’ gifts make an impact on your cause. 

Bloomerang’s donor management guide recommends sending donors photos or infographics that demonstrate their impact, such as images of volunteers working on building a new home for a community member. 

Use these additional strategies to engage donors in person and remotely

  • Send regular emails from your organization’s executive director. Major donors will appreciate hearing directly from the top leader at your organization about your nonprofit’s priorities, projects, and goals. 
  • Invite donors to your donor recognition wall unveiling. This might be an in-person gathering where you unveil a physical donor recognition wall or a virtual meeting where you spotlight your digital recognition wall
  • Schedule regular meetings to provide updates. Meet with major donors one-on-one to personally present updates about your organization and allow them to ask questions about how you’re using their funds. 

Throughout these communications, include plenty of opportunities to ask for donors’ feedback. For instance, you might ask what type of fundraising events they find most engaging or suggestions on improving your social media strategy. Consider their feedback with your team, then outline your plans for incorporating their input into your strategies. 

3. Invite major donors to engage in new ways.

Some of your major donors may be content with simply donating to your organization. Others may want to get more involved and familiarize themselves with the day-to-day operations of your organization. Give major donors the inside scoop on your cause by inviting them to engage in multiple opportunities, such as:

  • Volunteer events. Volunteering gives major donors a first-hand look at the impact of their gifts on your volunteer program. Plus, it allows them to build personal relationships with your volunteer coordinators and fellow volunteers, leading to a stronger sense of community within your organization. 
  • Board member positions. Some major donors may be interested in joining your organization’s leadership team. Highlight board positions when they become available. 
  • Stewardship events. Invite major donors to appreciation events, such as galas, luncheons, or trivia nights. 
  • Advocacy. Advocacy campaigns raise awareness of your nonprofit’s mission in the community. Your major donors can support these campaigns by sharing petitions or contacting legislators on behalf of your organization.
  • Influencer opportunities. Some major donors may be influential online leaders with large social media followings. You can engage these individuals in a new way by asking if they’d like to be influencers for your cause. According to NXUnite, nonprofit influencers can help establish credibility for your mission and expand your audience. 

Participating in these opportunities allows major donors to see different aspects of your mission and find activities that suit their interests and skills. This can lead to long-term investments from them as they continue donating and participating in your nonprofit’s journey. 

4. Ask for another gift strategically.

You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t send a follow-up donation request too soon after a donor has contributed. It’s true that major donors may not be receptive to an additional request after they’ve just given a sizable donation. 

However, by waiting too long to send a follow-up request, you risk falling off donors’ radars. Create a personalized outreach strategy for each major donor to determine the best time to ask for a second gift. 

For example, you might not ask your organization’s largest individual donor for another gift six months after they contributed a monumental donation. However, for donors on the lower end of your major gift range, sending another request six months after their initial donation is more likely to be well-received. 

First-time major donors will require more research from your organization to determine their motivations and giving preferences. Review your donor data to develop an ask strategy tailored to your new major donors. Assess their past gift amounts to other nonprofits as well as wealth indicators like real estate ownership and stock holdings. These data points should give you a ballpark range of how much to request in your follow-up ask. 

Major donors will be most receptive to well-timed, personalized donation requests, which increase the chances that they’ll become recurring supporters. If they do become regular supporters, make sure that your recurring billing software streamlines the donation process to give them the best experience possible. 

When it comes to major donor retention, your nonprofit doesn’t want to leave anything to chance. These surefire strategies will help develop long-lasting major donor relationships that benefit your organization for years to come. 

To develop a thriving major giving program, consider assembling a dedicated major gifts team that will regularly touch base with major donors and make them feel appreciated for their contributions. This team will be tasked with driving your major donor retention efforts forward and ensuring that your program is sustainable for the long term.