Go ahead, admit it. Sometimes you go through periods when you just seem to be in a rut when cultivating your major donors. You end up doing the same thing day in and day out, and it feels like you can’t get out of it.
Well, you’re in luck. Today’s the day you get out of that rut and start trying some new ways to cultivate your donors.
But before we get into these ideas, I want to remind you that in order to stay sharp in your work with major donors, you first need the mindset of providing outstanding customer service. This is not easy, but it is necessary if you are going to be successful in deepening relationships with your donors.
The outstanding customer service mentality means you are totally focused on your donors and thinking of ways to serve them. You know what it feels like when you get good customer service. It surprises you. Why? Because it doesn’t happen very often. If you want to stand out and capture the heart and mind of your donor, providing outstanding service to your donor will do it.
Here are my five ideas:

  1. Discover a hobby or an area of interest for your “A” list donors. Find an article that you can actually cut out of a paper or periodical and write a short note with it, saying, “Came across this and thought of you.” No, not an e-mail link (although that is not the worst idea). I’m talking about a real letter, hand-addressed, with a stamp on it. This is extremely important. It will totally surprise your donor (an attribute of outstanding customer service) and will endear him to you and your cause because “you took the time.”
  2. Create a small dinner party and invite different donors in your portfolio who enjoy meeting interesting people. Connecting individuals who either have similar interests (like your charity) or would benefit from knowing one other is a great way to create community with your organization’s major donors. You have to be very careful with the invite list. Keep it small and intimate, yet relaxed and casual. This is also a great opportunity to put your CEO in front of your donors and get feedback. When your donors “hit it off,” they will remember how they came together – YOU!
  3. Introduce your donors to another charity they would be interested in. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Is Jeff out of his mind?” No – remember that your donor will expect that you will only want to talk about your own wonderful organization. But if you are truly trying to help your donors support their passions and interests, then you are looking beyond your organization as well. You know your donors support other organizations, so be proactive about it. If you have some really good information about a cause they care about, they will be blown away that you are sharing it with them.
  4. Send a handwritten letter telling the donors how they made a difference. Yes, take a pen, get some good stationery from your organization and proceed to write a nice letter with a story. If you have a photo to send, even better. I cannot understate the impact of a personal, handwritten letter. The donor will feel extremely honored and special.
  5. “Thank you bomb” your donor. Okay, I just made up that term, but you’ve heard of people who “photo bomb,” I’m sure. This is when someone tries to surprise a photographer by suddenly appearing in the background of a photo and doing something crazy. Well, use the same concept to thank your donors. “Thank you bombing” is really just surprising your donors and thanking them for no apparent reason. You pick up the phone or send an e-mail that says, “Mary, I was just thinking about you and wanted to thank you for supporting us. You have been so great to us over the years. Thank you.” I’ve had MGOs do this, and the responses and conversations that result have been amazing. It’s gold.

Try using these five unconventional ideas for cultivating your donors. We would love to hear how they worked for you! Put these into practice and you’ll see some amazing things happen.
This post was originally published on July 10, 2013