If your nonprofit is like most others, gifts of $1,000 or more make up 85% of your revenue. This means that major donors can have a significant impact on your mission, and retaining their support is vital to your nonprofit’s success.

To properly thank major donors for their support, encourage them to keep giving, and cultivate a healthy nonprofit culture, you’ll need a well-structured plan for engagement. Let’s explore the best strategies for engaging major donors!

Create a major donor society.

CharityEngine’s nonprofit donations guide defines major gifts as “the byproduct, or result, of a strong relationship with a donor.” In other words, your first step toward acquiring major donations should be to cultivate deep and meaningful relationships with major givers.

Considering the value of major gifts, it’s well worth your time to nurture the donors who can fill this role. The best way to do this is to create a culture that encourages donors to make a major commitment because of the deep and engaged relationship they have with your mission and your team. As prospective major donors begin to emerge, you’ll want to ensure they feel like a valued part of your organization.

A major donor society accomplishes this by creating a sense of exclusivity. Create such a society by:

  • Setting parameters for gift amounts. For example, admission into the major donor society could be restricted to donors who give $2,000 or more.
  • Hosting exclusive events for members of the society, like galas or luncheons with your nonprofit’s leaders.
  • Promoting the society’s benefits to encourage mid-level donors to increase their giving amounts.

By offering membership and the major donor designation, donors will feel recognized and appreciated. They will also sense that they’re part of something bigger than traditional support and will feel as though they’re more able to directly impact your mission. In turn, they will be more engaged and committed to your nonprofit.

Send handwritten thank-you letters.

Most nonprofits already have appreciation strategies in place, such as gifts or events, to thank donors for their contributions. However, your organization can take gratitude to the next level for its major donors through personalization with handwritten thank-you letters.

eCardWidget’s thank-you letter tips recommend having a member of your leadership team craft a handwritten note from scratch since “this level of giving deserves some special care.” Here are some additional strategies for making your thank-you letters more meaningful:

  • Use your fundraising software to help personalize notes. This is where you’ll keep notes about your donors, such as whether the gift was in memory of someone or if the donor has a birthday approaching.
  • Always call the donor by name, paying close attention to meaningful titles such as “doctor.”
  • Mention the amount of the gift when thanking a donor.
  • Explain how the gift impacts your mission and what it was used for.
  • Use a heartfelt tone. You don’t want it to sound too professional or dry; write warmly.

While automated emails and texts can be the bread and butter of your donor communications, handwritten letters are becoming less common and will stand out. When you use your technology to segment your donors, you’ll find a subset that prefers direct mail. Anyone in this subset will particularly appreciate a handwritten note, major donor or not.

Handwritten letters offer a level of thoughtfulness that will resonate with major donors. But that’s only one piece of the culture you’re creating to nurture these donors; the frequency of your communication is also an element to consider.

Communicate regularly.

Along with sending personalized, meaningful messages, consistent contact is crucial to engaging major donors. This is where digital communication becomes especially advantageous—tools like automated emails or unique eCards can streamline communication without sacrificing the creativity or meaningful nature of your messages.

Send regular communications to major donors that include:

  • Details about your work. Consider what public information any donor can access, and then think about what you report to your board. Are there any details or impact stories that only your board hears? Share them with major donors to underscore the impact of their support. Providing high-level details to major donors will engage and intrigue them. Similarly, a phone call from your director in which this information is shared will make these donors feel special.
  • Opportunities for feedback. Your major donors can offer valuable and specific feedback about your organization and engagement efforts. Use your fundraising software to send surveys or polls to major donors. Consider the questions carefully so the feedback can significantly impact your operations.
  • Other involvement opportunities. Beyond a financial commitment, what other engagement opportunities exist? Perhaps major donors would volunteer to be the grand marshal at a fun run or work a shift at a food bank. Your director could also provide a lunch and educate donors about planned giving or any other major gift opportunities. Engagement beyond dollars quickly deepens a donor’s relationship with your nonprofit.

To organize your communications and ensure consistency, follow a donor stewardship matrix. This establishes a timeline for sending these messages and determines what types of communication will be sent to which donors. This way, you can keep track of your engagement efforts and ensure you efficiently reach every donor.

Track major donation metrics.

As you work to engage major donors, you’ll need a system for tracking your progress. Not only does this provide insight into your efforts, but you’ll also be able to identify areas for improvement by tracking key performance indicators (KPIs).

While the metrics you track will depend on your organization’s unique efforts and goals, some top ones to keep an eye on include:

  • Major donor retention rate
  • Average major gift size
  • Major gift program return on investment (ROI)
  • Average gift size growth
  • Major gift acquisition rate
  • Major gift dependency rate, or the percentage of total fundraising revenue
  • Major gift officer productivity (visits, solicitations, gifts secured)

Invest in fundraising software that offers reporting and analytics to calculate these metrics and watch their evolution over time. The right platform can empower your nonprofit to improve its approach to major donor engagement by tracking your most important data and offering easily customizable reports.

Invest in major gift fundraising tools.

Beyond providing insightful data, fundraising software can streamline and improve specific aspects of your engagement strategy. Depending on how you choose to engage your donors, software specifically built for nonprofits can offer valuable tools that can assist your efforts. Many platforms also offer giving probability scores to highlight when you should approach donors and the ask most likely to resonate. Here are some other tools you will appreciate:

  • Matching gift software: As part of their philanthropic efforts, employers of your nonprofit’s major donors might offer to match their donations. Double your nonprofit’s major gift revenue by encouraging donors to check their matching gift eligibility and submit a match request.
  • Donor database: Robust software will offer a donor database and collect information on every interaction a donor has with your nonprofit. Having a 360-degree view of each donor can help you identify, engage, and nurture major gift donors earlier and lead to more success in procuring gifts.
  • Prospect research software: Learning as much as you can about major donors offers insights that will help target your appeal. Primarily, you’ll be able to tailor engagement efforts according to specific motivations for giving so they resonate with major donors.

When choosing a platform, an all-in-one solution may offer the robust features your nonprofit needs to complement its various engagement tactics. Draft a list of must-have features to guide your research and get demos of several platforms before committing to a tool.

Your nonprofit’s impact is at the heart of every one-time, mid-level, and major gift alike. If your campaign shares statistics, stories, and the effects of your work, you won’t have a problem keeping your major donors committed to your nonprofit.