I was recently on a Live Community Q&A call for our Veritus Group Academy participants and was inspired by the conversation. It was the first call of the year, and the ideas of what to do with your major donors this time of year were flowing. There was so much care and creativity shared, and I wanted to bring you into that discussion too. (And I’d love to hear what ideas you would add! Just share those with us in the comments.)

So, let’s set the stage here a bit. Hopefully by now, your accounting team has closed the books on last year. You’ve been busy sending thank you notes to donors for their year-end gifts. Now, you’re ready to start stewarding, inspiring, and connecting with your donors in a more meaningful way.

This time of year is an important time for planning, refreshing your caseload, and preparing your communication efforts for the year ahead. Here’s a quick reminder of why this is so important:
  • Building trust with someone doesn’t happen overnight, and it most likely won’t happen because the donor gets a pretty newsletter or a particularly great email. Trust is built with small, meaningful steps over time. It’s important that each of these steps show the donor that you know who they are and have taken the time to reach out in a meaningful and intentional way.
  • You are a community builder. You act as a pivotal link between a community of people who care about changing the world and those being impacted by the work of your organization. By connecting with the donor’s passions and interests, you’re reminding the donor that they are part of something bigger than themself.
  • When you have trust and a community connection, donors are giving because they know they can make an impact in an area they care deeply about. You help them to discover how they can achieve this.
Now that we’ve set that intention, let’s get on to the ideas. My goal here is not to just list a bunch of ideas, but to take something you may already be doing and move it to a more meaningful place. I hope these ideas inspire you to get rolling!
  1. Create a one-page overview of the main areas of your mission. Identify the donors whose passions and interests you don’t yet know and send it to them. Then follow up to ask what drew them in, where they have more questions, and if a particular area interested them.
  2. Send out a survey to check in on contact information, communication preferences, and areas of interest.
  3. Write up a few new open-ended questions you can use to be curious with your donors as you engage with them this year.
  4. Do a specific check-in with your donors to verify that you are in alignment on the donor’s communication preferences. Set the context by noting that some donors have changed their preferences over the last couple of years, and you want to be sure you’re providing information in the way the donor wants to receive it.
  5. Share highlights from last year including stories, new strategies, and accomplishments from your program team.
  6. Invite your donor to a program update either via video or on a live Zoom call so the donor can connect directly with the program coordinator, ask questions, and learn more about the impact of their gift. If your program folks are hard to nail down, you can also invite your donor to watch a quick homemade program update video with you on Zoom and then discuss.
  7. Do some research on the donor’s interests outside of your mission. This is another meaningful way you can connect with your donor throughout the year. Remember, your donors are not one-dimensional – they’re humans with diverse interests and various aspects of their lives, just like you!
  8. Consider involving your board and CEO in a thank-a-thon, especially with your Tier A donors or donors who engaged in new ways last year.
  9. Explore digital thank you and impact reporting options using systems like ThankView or Gratavid. These systems offer a quick way to get individualized videos out to specific donors in a way that feels personal and intentional.
  10. Create your plan for reporting back on the donor’s impact, especially if they gave a year-end gift. Start working with your program and finance teams now to get the information you need to share updates with the donor.

I know this is a lot. Try to choose 1-3 things you want to try right now with your donors. Get yourself in the right headspace by remembering why you do this work. And make it fun by getting creative and doing some of these with other people on your team. But most importantly, commit to making it happen!