Consider February, with Valentine’s Day smack in the middle, as #donorlove month. 

Why not? The more you speak the language of love to your donors, the more they’ll shower you with love in return.

And by ‘love,’ I mean philos (love) + anthropos (humanity). That’s right. Philanthropy = ‘love of humanity.’

Robert Payton, the first full-time Director of the Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University, defined philanthropy as “voluntary action for the public good.” He saw philanthropists as people with a spiritual (not necessarily religious) calling. Philanthropy is seen as a special kind of occupation — a vocation.

Philanthropists are passionate lovers.

And for them to feel and express their love, it’s your job to connect them with their passions.

Here are three, eminently doable, strategies I’d like to suggest for #donorlove month.

Please prioritize these strategies this year.

  • Do #1 all year long.
  • Do #2 this month – or at least calendar a month every year to do it.
  • Do #3 this month, and perhaps quarterly.

It’s imperative to build a strong connection with major donors so they feel bonded to you. Like family.

You. Can. Do. This.

1. Send More Personal Email

Especially to prospects for upgraded and/or continuing major gifts.

Success in fundraising relies, largely, on building relationships.

Relationships are not passive. A relationship is formed by connecting behaviors.

By what active behaviors do you connect with your donors?

Synonyms for ‘relationship’ include ‘affinity,’ ‘association,’ liaison,’ and ‘linkage.’

How do you show your affinity with your donors?

How do you associate, liaise and link with them?

Do you know your donors?

How do you let them know you know them?

Here are two strategies I’ve found to be highly effective:

  1. Create Google alerts for your board members and major donor prospects. These will alert you if your donor gets a press mention (e.g., they received a promotion, retired, sold a business, won an award, are getting married) so you can send them a personal email (or even make a phone call). Example: I see you recently won the ‘Citizen of the Year’ award. It couldn’t have gone to someone more deserving. I’m so glad you’re a member of our community, and please know how proud we all are. Congrats!

  2. Send donors information they might find interesting and/or useful. When you see an article you know a particular donor would appreciate, send an email link (or clip it out and mail it if you’re at home reading a magazine), letting them know you thought of them. Example: When I read this article, I immediately thought of you, and our past conversations on this subject. I would love to hear your thoughts.

2. Conduct an Online Donor Survey

This relates, of course, to getting to know your donors better.

The more you know, the better you can create communications your donor will find relevant to their personal interests and desires.

This is the first step to developing the personal relationships upon with sustainable fundraising relies.

Donor surveys offer you a “twofer.”  One is for you (useful information); the other is for your donor (a way to usefully participate other than giving money).

Here are a few donor survey tips to maximize the likelihood your donor will complete, and even enjoy, the task:

  1. Begin with a thoughtful, compelling email subject header. Examples: What floats your boat? What keeps you up at night? What makes you tick? What sizzles your bacon? What flies your flag? What toasts your bagel? What triggers you?

  2. Lead with gratitude. Always thank donors for their support before asking them to do anything for you. This should be common sense.

  3. Keep it short and sweet. It shouldn’t require a lot of your donor’s time if you want to assure they follow through. Keep most of the questions (probably no more than five) multiple choice, rating on a scale or rank order. Include one subjective question where donors can give you more personal feedback – but ask for a word, phrase or sentence, not a term paper. Let your donor know the time commitment up front. Example: I’d love to know a bit more about what concerns you… interests you… worries you… makes you passionate about this work… Would you be willing to take just one minute to tell us a bit about yourself by answering five quick questions?

  4. Input what you learn in your database. This is the only way you’ll make your data actionable; otherwise, what’s the point? Be sure you enter the information into fields where you’ll be able to pull reports and create mailing segments (e.g., cat vs. dog lovers; seniors vs. children’s services; research vs. direct service). There’s nothing more annoying to donors than when they tell you something (e.g., their program of greatest interest; their preferred method of communication), and you proceed to ignore it.

Note some donor databases and CRMs have donor engagement surveys built in to their software, making it super easy to implement this winning strategy. Even if that’s not you, you’ll find lots of online help to create donors surveys. Here’s one article.

3. Send Insider Information to Major Donors

Do you have breaking news or an upcoming program or event you could share with major donors before it goes public?

Major donors appreciate being “in the know.”

It makes them feel more confident about sharing their passion for your work, and maybe even inviting others in their networks to join them. It’s an effective, and inexpensive, way to deepen your donors’ connection to your organization. Try a:

  • Sneak Peek
  • Special Preview
  • Behind-the-Scenes Tour
  • Dinner with the Director
  • Town Hall

In your plans for the year ahead, look for opportunities to share insider news.

Here are two Valentine’s Day specific strategies.

1. Send Donors Valentines

What an opportune time to show your donors some love! It doesn’t have to be fancy. You could simply buy children’s paper valentines, for example, and mail them to major donors. Or perhaps a local bakery or chocolatier will offer you a free item coupon you can enclose in a card? For some great ideas, check out my Pinterest boards: (1) Zee Happy Valentine’s Day, and (2) Gratitude: Nonprofits Say Thanks.

2. Consider a Valentine’s Day Themed Fundraising Campaign

Here are some ideas for piggybacking on Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to engage donors. Why not? It’s a day folks are feeling the love!

  • Consider asking folks to send a valentine in honor of a loved one – a donation to your meaningful cause is something that shows the true meaning of love.

  • Partner with a local bakery or chocolatier to offer discounts to everyone who makes a Valentine’s Day donation. Publicize this on your website and via email, and ask the retailer to do the same.

  • Ask a restaurant or florist to give a % of every sale on Valentine’s Day to your organization. Propose a joint promotional campaign that’s a win/win for all involved.

  • Hold a ‘Shop in the Name of Love’ online auction or raffle. You still have time to gather some items, and this is a fun way to engage your constituents. Your proceeds may not be huge, but if you set a specific goal and earmark the proceeds to a specific project that would not happen absent this campaign, you’ll create a feel-good experience for everyone.

  • Ask a local business, foundation, donor or your collective board to put up a “Be Our Valentine” challenge grant to “add a little extra love” to monthly donor gift commitments – maybe add a 13th month?You could run a similar campaign any time, calling it simply a “13 For Luck!” or “Baker’s Dozen” challenge.

Finally, here’s a special valentine for you!

To show my appreciation for your affiliation as a wonderful, engaged Clairification School student, I’m giving you a sugar-free, gluten-free, GMO-free, cholesterol-free, vegan, 100% calorie-free treat. It’s a little ‘Cheat Sheet’ to help you build stronger relationships with major donor prospects. I hope you enjoy!

Donor-Centered Conversation Starters for Major Donor Visits.