Connecting Donors to What Matters Most


"Connecting you to what matters is what matters most."

This tagline is from Delta Airlines. But when I hear it on a flight, I am not thinking about travel. Instead, I am thinking it is a great reminder of what we should be focused on NOW based on the trending data. This is the donor-centric mantra we should all be repeating in our heads as we work with prospects and contributors.


It's a good time to take a look at donor stewardship at all levels.

A recent report from Chronicle of Philanthropy suggests that the number of small gift donors fell significantly in the first half of 2022 as compared to the previous year.

The number of people making contributions of $100 or less dropped more than 17%, and 8% fewer donors made gifts if $101-$500.

Small donors may not make as much of an impact individually as our major gift supporters, but their support adds up over time – especially if stewarded carefully and retained. Small donors during these inflationary times are thinking more carefully about every gift they make. Therefore we need to pay attention to what matters most to them and connect to that topic or issue in our stewardship efforts.

Keep the lines of communication open throughout the year to make sure all donors – including those who give smaller amounts – feel involved and appreciated, even if they can’t give at this time. Hopefully, they will continue to give and grow their gift in the future because you have stayed connected to them and what is important to them.


Your donor pipeline matters more than ever. 

This year, some donors will inevitably fall by the wayside. It may be because their priorities have changed or due to financial challenges. Either way, you will want to lessen the impact of these losses as much as you can. This means remaining mindful of the status of your donor pipeline at all giving levels and strategically planning how to acquire and sustain new donors beyond their first gift. 

You also need to keep existing donors engaged and interested. Knowing as much as possible about your donors can help you do this effectively. Once again, focus on what matters to them and connecting your organization’s services and programs to them in your communications.


Personalized outreach is a must.

Now is not the time to deliver a generic thank-you email, or worse, a bland and impersonal request for a donation. Make sure your database is up-to-date so you are equipped with the right information needed to make all their donor communications personal and meaningful.

Here are some key questions to ask as you evaluate your next steps:

  • Are you collecting more than basic contact information and giving history? 

  • Do you have the relevant details to create personalized communication and requests?

  • Have you collected stories or testimonials that reflect your case for support and illustrate your organization’s impact?

  • Can you scour your database to learn more about your smaller donors. Have they also volunteered? How long have they been a donor? Are they a once-a-year-giver or a more consistent giver? Consider segmenting these groups accordingly and tailor your stewardship messages to each.

  • When was the last time you refreshed your acknowledgement letters, emails and website screens? If it’s been a while, take a look to see if you can offer more storytelling and impact data in those places. 

  • Do you have a donor e-newsletter? Start paying attention to click throughs on specific articles to see what people are most intrigued by. 

When it comes to Questions That Matter, asking about what motivates donors at all levels is a worthwhile, on-going endeavor.


12-1This Month's Focus

This month we're taking a look at ourselves and our relationships. Join us in taking a step back and considering the questions that we should be asking to continue developing and nurturing what matters most.



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Posted by Robyn Furness-Fallin
Robyn Furness-Fallin

Written by Robyn Furness-Fallin

Robyn Furness-Fallin, CFRE, offers financial development and volunteer leadership consulting for nonprofits and higher ed. As a Senior Consultant with DBD Group, Robyn is a shrewd strategist who helps bring clarity and focus to the campaigns she supports.

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