I want to be frank with you. I love what I get to be a part of in my role as a Client Experience Leader with Veritus. We partner with non-profit organizations doing amazing work all around the world. The joy our team expresses when we share a win in our Slack #celebrations channel is genuine. The pile-on of encouragement we give each other internally is very powerful.

BUT we also sometimes need to vent. And one of the things that makes me want to pull my hair out is a certain resistance we often hear from fundraisers… they don’t want to create a strategic communication plan for each donor

Frequently this comes from the most experienced gift officers.

Sometimes it’s from leadership. What it boils down to is a clear message to me that says, “I’ve got this. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.” In other words, THAT gift officer does not need a systematic plan, customized for each donor, because they already know what to do and have been doing it for years.

When I drafted this blog post, I was sitting with my mother, who was at the end stage of vascular dementia and at my sister’s home for hospice care during her final days. 

As we navigated this time, there were five siblings to consider, one of whom had done the majority of the heavy lifting over the past eight years, including all things financial and medical. Another is in the health profession and has a spouse that is a registered nurse. I have been the one to support the main sibling as well as be the lead for care during vacations. Two other siblings visited but didn’t have direct care responsibilities.

When we moved her home, we had basic instructions for how to care for my mother. But what we learned in short order is that if we didn’t translate the basic plan into a list of steps with a time noted, it was impossible to keep it straight and do the right thing at the right time. At first, we just thought, this is easy, we’ll just do this every three hours and that every two hours, etc.

But two sleepless nights later, I found I was continually second guessing myself on what I had or hadn’t done. So I got a white board and plotted out the plan for each day. 

My anxiety level went down immediately. And I felt confident when I needed to make adjustments for medication or physically changing her position as needed and could see how each change impacted the original plan. My siblings could clearly see what changed. And needless to say, the steps on the white board at 10 pm did not look like they had at 10 am.

Why tell you all of this? It’s not completely unlike a Major Gift team. Each member has a role, but at the hub is the gift officer who needs to create and document a strategic plan for each donor, update what happened, flex the plan around the ever-changing current situation, and communicate to keep the team involved.

Gift officers who do this tell me every year as December or their fiscal year end approaches: “I don’t have the anxiety I used to have coming into year-end.” Or: “Now that I’m truly connecting with my donors throughout the year, I don’t feel a mad scramble to fit it all into December.”

The end result is a better journey for your donor. In addition to reporting back and bringing new opportunities as they arise organically, you have made space to stop and think about your donor’s life and reach out in ways that are personal to them. By the time year-end comes, you’ve connected eight or more times in a variety of ways, so if they give in December, you and the donor are well prepared to consider what their philanthropy will look like.

With the start of a new year, I hope you take time now to begin that plan for each donor you are responsible to steward. I guarantee you it will make a huge difference in 12 months.


Diana Frazier is a Senior Client Experience Leader at Veritus Group. With over 32 years of experience in the non-profit sector, Diana has helped organizations meet strategic objectives through fund and product development, marketing, and operations management. She has worked on staff or as a consultant in a wide range of non-profits including print and media organizations, missions, higher education, health, crisis counseling, and churches.