As development professionals, our goal is to cultivate lifelong donor engagement with our organizations, leading to significant, meaningful philanthropy—but this task is much easier said than done. Often, donors are content giving smaller gifts, supporting multiple organizations, and experiencing comparatively little joy and satisfaction. When we accept these smaller contributions with no strategy to cultivate deeper commitment, we deprive the donor of available joy—not to mention, we may miss out on the full potential for the philanthropic partnership.

Instead of missing out, consider these four tactics for helping donors see all that may be possible through their philanthropy.

  1. Provide connections with other high-level donors

Sometimes a strong example from their peers can be incredibly influential to donors—particularly seeing how meaningful philanthropy is to others. In fact, some donors consider giving so others can see their example as an important part of their legacy. A development professional describes one such donor by saying, “Betty was determined to give away every dollar that she ever earned, and she wanted to do that while she was living—to leave a living legacy. She sent a really clear message to other philanthropists to be part of this, be part of something while you’re still here.”

  • Who might be willing to share what inspires their giving?
  • Who might give more, and sooner, if they are able to see others’ examples?

2. Share the impact of past contributions

Knowing that the best potential donor is one who has given before, we always do well to focus on providing meaningful Return on Philanthropic Investment to existing donors. While some may feel that they have given all they can to your organization, seeing the impact and experiencing the joy of knowing they made a difference can inspire them to seek additional opportunities to be a part of the important work you do.

  • Who has given in the past, but is hesitating to do so again?
  • What impact did past contributions make?

3. Coach and introduce an influential leader

A leader who has been well-prepared by his or her development partner to share an inspiring vision for the future may be the perfect person to help a potential donor raise his or her sights to all that is possible through philanthropy. Depending on the size of the contribution in question, it can be effective to emphasize its significance by introducing a higher level of leadership.

  • Are your partners prepared to participate in the donor development process?
  • What help do leaders and other subject matter experts need as they prepare?

4. Work together to identify new passions

Potential donors have a rich constellation of passions based on their life experiences. While we may have helped a donor make a contribution in one area of passion, that does not mean we have identified them all. Take a step back and reassess, beginning with the Process for Locating Philanthropic Passion™. Together, you may uncover more areas where donors want to make an impact and more opportunities to connect meaningfully with your organization’s work.

  • Who has already made one passion-based contribution, but has not given significantly since?
  • What other areas of the organization might interest potential donors?

Finally, keep in mind that the goal should always be to help donors give all that would be appropriate for them to give during a life-long relationship with the organization. What do you do to raise donor sights?


The Art and Science of Donor Development