9 ways to get personal in your donor relationships

As any nonprofit fundraiser knows, generating donations is about building relationships.

In her book “Donor Cultivation and the Donor Lifecycle Map,” Deborah Kaplan Polivy provides nine ways to add a personal touch when soliciting donors.

* Schedule face-to-face meetings. Among the most powerful donor cultivation tools, if a potential donor is willing to schedule a meeting at the person’s home or office, chances are they are willing to make a contribution.
* Thank donors in a personal, timely fashion. Thank-you notes should be sent for all gifts and signed personally. If limited staffing prevents such a gesture, a card with pictures showing the impact of contributions may be able to tug on the heartstrings.
* Pick up the phone and dial. Phone conversations provide opportunities to establish personal connections beyond solicitations.
* Find ways to get your donors involved. Whether it is through a volunteer committee, board or task force, “deliberate involvement” brings donors closer to organizations and increases commitment.
* Conduct site visits. Donors enjoy seeing how organizations operate. For example, a tour of a hospital provides more detail about operations than a meeting in an office.
* Invite donors to special functions such as sporting events or lectures. Such events provide members of the organization and donors an opportunity to get to know one another.
* Organizing private events such as parties, giving circles or leadership or solicitation training are another means of letting organization members and donors get to know one another. They could also serve as a means of getting donors more involved in the organization.
* Including donors in feasibility studies is a way to keep donors engaged. It can also keep donors aware of organizations’ plans and prepare him or her for a request for contribution.
* Recognize major events in a donor’s life. An annual birthday card is nice, but keep larger events such as major birthdays and anniversaries, the bar mitzvah of a child or grandchild and weddings in mind.