Major Donor Game Plan: Relationships

It’s Not Rocket Science… It’s Relationships

Donors don’t give to organizations; they give to people. They don’t give to direct mail; they give to people. They don’t give to proposals; they give to people. The second “R” in my book, Major Donor Game Plan, is Relationship. The deeper you develop relationships with mega and major donors the more opportunity mega and major gifts can become a reality for your ministry.


You identified your donor prospects and suspects in the research step. Now, it’s time to create an individualized communication plan. What works for one donor may not work for another. Treat every mega and major donor as a small mini-campaign. What do they need to hear from you to draw them closer to your ministry? Personal contact is always the best method. The pandemic has forced many organizations to be creative and cultivate successful relationships via Zoom. Interestingly, some donors are responding more to texts than emails. Every relationship needs to be nurtured as you educate, cultivate, inspire, inform, motivate, and eventually ask for their financial support.

Keep the information flowing. Customize the information your ministry partners receive. Do they want lots of details, not too much, or somewhere in between? Listen for their “hot button.” What gets them excited about making a difference with their hard-earned money? Key donors receive great joy knowing their gift has made a significant impact on your organization.

Value-Based Relationships

A marriage that lasts is built on a foundation of shared values. Jane and will celebrate 47 years of wedded bliss this year. We’ve been blessed with the bliss part because we share similar values such as, our faith, our children, our grandchildren, her good golf game, my bad golf game, well you get it. Our values are aligned.

Drill deeper with each donor relationship to identify their value system. Discover how their values match the values of your ministry. Are they excited about missions, human need, clean water, education, evangelism, children, the disenfranchised, health care, housing? Sharing personalized information with value-based donors about how your organization is addressing the problems they want to solve is the quickest way to mega and major gifts.

Donor Care

Many of your relationship-building experiences with your key donors will not involve asking for a gift. It’s just lunch, a visit, a ministry tour, a call, or any opportunity to strengthen your relationship. Two four-letter words impact every relationship, L-O-V-E and T-I-M-E. Donors sometimes equate love with the time you invest with them. A phone call to hear how they are doing, a visit, a handwritten note, a food delivery (masked up of course) will go a long way in deepening your relationships. Plan special donor care connections for each of your mega and major donors in 2021.

Never-Ending Love

Relationships are job one. Your pursuit to develop deep donor relationships never ends. Review these four key strategies:

  1. Communicate personally and consistently with your key donors.
  2. Match their values with your ministry’s mission, vision, core values, and key outcomes.
  3. Care for your donors. Schedule time to show love to each key donor.
  4. Slow down. Take your time. Successful fundraising is not grab-the-money-and-run. It’s a life-long friendship.

Want to extend the shelf life of your major donors? Build authentic relationships. It’s the path to bigger gifts over a much longer time. Successful key gift fundraising is a process that takes years, not weeks or months.

Some think fundraising should be as complex as rocket science fueled by expensive software that produces fancy charts and graphs. But the more effective strategy is to find a rocket scientist, develop a personal relationship, share your ministry story, and ask for a gift that aligns with their heart!

About the Author: Pat McLaughlin President/Founder – Pat started The Timothy Group in 1990 to serve Christian ministries as they raise money to advance their missions. TTG has assisted more 1,800 Christian organizations around the world with capital, annual, and endowment campaigns. More than 25,000 of Pat’s books, Major Donor Game Plan, The C Factor: The Common Cure for your Capital Campaign Conundrums, and Haggai & Friends have helped fundraisers understand the art and science of major donor engagement. Pat makes more than one hundred major donor visits annually and provides counsel to multiple capital campaigns. 

1 Comment
  • Jerry D McCartney
    Posted at 10:23h, 11 February Reply

    This is a great article!
    Not only is it a good reminder for those of us who have been doing development for a while but certainly new development reps.
    Thanks for taking the time to put this article together.
    Keep them coming.
    Appreciate you.


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