As your organization moves from a one-person fundraising shop to a large department with several development officers and a robust donor base, how do you maintain personal connections with your donors?

Personal touches are critically important in developing long-term, sustainable donor relationships. This personal connection goes beyond having lunch. It means building a deep understanding of donors’ interests and values, involving them in your organization in a meaningful and fulfilling way and keeping them informed of their gift’s impact on your ability to fulfill your mission.

Nonprofits, large and small, need to develop an organizational strategy that is donor-centric – an approach that involves donors as critical partners in executing your mission. Organizations should employ a thoughtful fundraising and stewardship strategy that is directed by the CEO or executive director, working with the development director and focusing on relationship-building for right now and for the future. Here are some guidelines for a successful strategic plan:

  • Never underestimate the power of your CEO, but be realistic with his/her time. Strategically assign donors for your CEO to personally cultivate and steward while finding creative ways to let the CEO’s voice and perspective be heard on a regular basis. Each month, choose a handful of donors to receive a short personal note from the CEO thanking them for being integral to the organization’s success.
  • Identify a member of the development staff who can effectively capture the CEO’s voice and use it to create personal connections. You can incorporate updates from the CEO into your e-newsletter and website and send periodic stewardship letters or updates on the organization’s breaking news. These personal touches help make donors feel like insiders.
  • Use senior staff as fundraising ambassadors. Programming staff can be especially effective in creating personal connections and providing another point of contact for your donors. Often, donors are not looking for more “things”; instead, they appreciate access to new, exclusive experiences that provide a deeper understanding of your organization and mission.
  • Assign donors to specific members of the development staff. As the development department becomes multi-faceted, clear communication among staff members and a shared understanding of, and responsibility for, fundraising are key. Sharing details about your individual donors – such as, what makes them tick and feel special, why you have made each personal contact with them and how often they like to receive communication – will ensure a smooth transition as donors move to different levels of support.
  • Track and document all your personal touches. As your organization grows, shared institutional knowledge will lead to more effective personal connections.

Whatever their size, all development departments are working toward the same goal – to raise funds to sustain your organization. No fundraising team can do this without personally engaging your donor base in the fulfillment of your mission and the constituents you serve.