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How small shop fundraisers can steward major donors

Posted March 26, 2020 by Virginia Davidson

how to steward major donors

If you hear the term “major donor” and feel that your organization is too small to steward major donors, think again. The word “major” is relative. Whatever your scale is, your organization probably already has the support of some major donors. By proactively stewarding them, you can build lasting and growing support for your organization. These tips will help you get started.

Identify your major donors.

Determine your organization’s top donors, and remember to take their cumulative giving into account. A donor who gives a recurring monthly gift of $25 is no less valuable than a donor who gives a single gift of $250 annually.

Build those relationships.

Take a look at how often those major donors hear from your organization. If they only receive your annual appeal, it’s time to make a communications plan. They should feel a close connection to your mission, and you can foster that connection by reporting back to them throughout the year. Staff and board members can make a point to reach out to these donors and learn more about their interest in your organization. If you’re using a donor management system like Little Green Light, you can create contact reports to record these personal interactions.

Identify your organization’s needs and get specific.

What program do you need to raise funds for? What is the cost? How many gifts, and of what size, do you need to raise to reach that goal? (Tip: A gift pyramid can help you plot this out). What will each gift make possible? Pin these details down.

Segment your appeal or make the ask in person.

Rather than sending your major donors your generic appeal letter, segment your appeal and personalize the letters in this segment. Ask for a gift of a specific amount. Have a board member add a handwritten note to the appeal letter. You can also consider meeting with a donor in person to make a personalized ask.

Personalize the gift acknowledgment.

Just as you personalized the solicitation, you need to personalize the thank you. Make the donor feel valued, and reinforce the impact of their gift. A handwritten note on the thank you letter and a follow-up phone call are effective ways to convey your organization’s appreciation.

Stick with it.

It takes time to nurture these relationships, but long-term major donors will be a major asset to your organization. As you invest time and effort in stewarding major donors, you’ll become more comfortable and adept at doing so.


Your organization doesn’t have to have a major gifts officer or a big budget in order to steward major donors. Whatever your size, you’ll be well served by identifying major donors and treating them as such. The sooner you get started, the sooner your organization will benefit!

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