How To Build Better Relationships For Major Donor Cultivation

February 22, 2019 - 7 minutes read

Cultivating major donors is the pillar of every nonprofit organization. Without them, it becomes very hard to run new programs and create impact. A steady stream of new donors is vital to keep your organization functioning.

But, on average, it takes about 6-12 months to successfully cultivate, solicit, and receive a major gift from a donor. Hence, building a strong relationship with your prospects is extremely important.

And with the onset of emerging technologies, today’s nonprofit communication specialists have multiple channels through which they can build this relationship. Now, the question is –– which channel should I use? Or how many to use? Well, the best way is to adopt a multichannel engagement strategy.

This article discusses how you can use emails, text messages, phone calls, and social media to cultivate major gift donors and sustain relationships in the long run.


As a nonprofit professional, you’re in the business of growing relationships. Starting them, growing them, inspiring them, and then moving towards stewardship.

Now, let’s say that you’ve qualified a prospect. You’re feeling great about their capacity to give. So you decide to grow the relationship.

Emails should be used as the first point of contact to keep the relationship warm. Start with a welcome email to onboard the prospect with your organization. Next, send informational content. This can be blog posts or informational video.

Find out where their interest lies and send updates on those projects. You should also send updates on significant gifts made by others in their social circle, which would act as social proof and nudge them towards donating in the future.

Through emails, you should also focus on showing prospects the inner workings of your organization. So, you can send recaps of trustee meetings or meetings of other leadership groups and the outcome of such meetings. This helps you build trust and shows them that you’re transparent in your communications with them.

Text Messages

Engaging prospects via text messages should be done simultaneously while emailing them. The main goal here is to have conversations, which is hard to do over emails. As text messages have an open rate of 99%, you can make sure that your prospects will see your message.

You can text something along the lines of garnering support. Get them to do small tasks like signs petitions, attend events or rallies, and volunteer.

Engagement doesn’t end just here. Send them quotes and updates from your organization’s Executive Director. And links to articles or information pertaining to their interest.

By using peer to peer texting tools your volunteers can simultaneously maintain thousands of conversations and create personalized experiences.

When prospects get a personal text from an actual volunteer, as opposed to receiving generic email blasts, they’ll be more inclined to respond. This way, the back and forth of texts will help forge a special connection between your organization and the prospect.

Phone Calls

Although emails, text messages, direct mail, and other mass communication methods play an important role in nonprofit development, having direct conversations with prospects on a regular basis will have the most impact on your cultivation process.

So, pick up the phone and call your prospects. These calls are not “ask” calls. These are just short duration calls to check in with your prospects, give them updates, ask for feedback, wish them on reaching important milestones, and to connect them with other like-minded people. These kind of calls are extremely important for building a stronger relationship.

As you’ll be talking to major gift prospect make sure that these calls are made by your board members. If not, you can get your volunteers or staff members to do so. To streamline the process you can make use of a call center software. This way you can make notes, keep a check on the number of calls made, and segment prospects while on call. Information collected can be used later to send more personal content.

Social Media

Social media gives your organization a great opportunity to communicate with your prospects and donors in real-time. Go where your prospects are and start sharing about your nonprofit. Consider hosting an invite-only event like a tweet chat or Google Hangout where they can talk to your executive director or receive an expert opinion on areas of interest. Apart from this, you can live tweet or live stream from your events, give insider sneak peeks, tell stories on Facebook, and share beautiful videos, images, and infographics.

You should also dedicate a major chunk of your social media post to recognizing your donors, volunteers, and fundraisers. Tag and thank them for their contributions and share their posts. You can also create a Pinterest board showcasing all their efforts.

When it comes to building stronger relationships, the goal is to engage them with relevant content. Educate them about your organization, learn their interest, and make the prospect feel an emotional connection to your work. If you can do that while using each of these channels together, you’re well on your way to cultivating lifelong major gift donors.