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How To Cultivate Major Donors | Part 3 Develop Your Strategies

Developing a comprehensive strategy is essential for effective donor cultivation at any level. To maximize your efforts, it is crucial to recognize that each segment of your donor base requires a different approach. Cultivating a relationship with someone capable of supporting your cause at $100 per month requires a distinct strategy compared to engaging with a family able to contribute $25,000 or more annually. The information they require, the communication style, and the need for relationship-building vary significantly within each category.

In this segment, we will primarily focus on the major donor segment of your donor base. We will explore strategies for three major categories: current givers, lapsed donors, and prospective givers.


If you have families on your donor list who are making substantial investments in your work, it is essential to invest in developing relationships with them. This group has the potential to make a transformative difference in your cause. As investors, they deserve to be well-informed about your activities, progress, partnerships, impact, and leadership team. By involving them in the inner circle of your work, you will instill confidence in your mission and leadership. Furthermore, they can serve as valuable advisors, providing guidance, preventing pitfalls, and even introducing other potential major donors.

Craft a "moves management" plan for each family in this category, focusing on areas aligned with their demonstrated passion. Avoid overwhelming them with information unrelated to their interests. Instead, personalize the relationship by meeting them in person. Take the time to understand their family, business, challenges, hobbies, and leisure activities. The more you know about them, the stronger your relationship will be. Engage them emotionally by sharing compelling stories of lives improved, changed, or rescued by your organization's work. If storytelling is not your forte, invest in learning this skill, as it is crucial for cultivating strong relationships with your major donor families.


Life circumstances can cause individuals to change their priorities, leading them away from a cause they once supported. In some cases, donors may have discontinued their contributions due to feeling neglected or frustrated over organizational decisions or changes in direction. Regardless of the reason behind the break in the relationship, there is an opportunity to reconnect. These donors have shown an affinity for your work and some level of trust in your organization, which is why they contributed in the past. With proper attention and cultivation, they can be brought back into the fold.

To initiate the reconnection process, acknowledge that you may have let them down in the past and express your desire to help them understand what has happened since their last engagement. Thank them sincerely for their past support and provide an exciting update on your work. Share stories of individual lives impacted, offering a concise overview of your accomplishments and the outcomes you have achieved. Avoid overwhelming them with excessive details. Importantly, refrain from making a direct ask for money until the relationship is repaired and they have indicated a willingness to consider contributing again. Repairing the relationship will require time, investment, and intentionality.


Building relationships with prospective major donors is a gradual process. Relationships take time to develop, and it is crucial to invest in relationship-building. Once you have defined the characteristics of a major donor and identified prospects, it is time to focus on nurturing these relationships.

Many elements discussed in the previous two categories apply here as well. Identify the specific areas of your work that resonate with their passion. Determine which aspects of your mission align closely with their philanthropic interests. Explore other organizations and nonprofits they support, seeking consistency between their choices and your work.

As you get to know prospective donors and understand their passions, tailor your conversations to align with their specific interests. Gradually, you will focus solely on the aspects of your work that matter most to them. Over time, this approach will pave the way for an invitation to invest. However, it is crucial not to rush the process, as moving too fast can potentially turn them off and make it more challenging to secure future appointments and contributions.

Remember, a well-defined and intentional strategy for each market segment, especially major donors and prospects, will yield significant dividends in the long run. Cutting corners in this area is not advisable.