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Beyond Giving: Building Donor Relationships

By April 12, 2023No Comments

I get lots of questions/comments from nonprofits and ministries seeking that one donor….that one donor who can and will write a check with several zeroes. Or, that donor who will give substantially every month.

While it would certainly be nice to have one donor who routinely gives the organization a gift large enough to fund the entire operating budget for a year, that is probably too far-fetched to really happen. It would also mess up your IRS 501(c)(3) status.

As nice as it seems, it is really not a good idea. Nonprofits and ministries need a broad donor base that includes many people.  Having just a few sources of funding is almost as bad as not having any at all.

Building a donor base will never be considered an easy task; however, with some effort and patience it can be done on a shoestring budget.

Begin with a printed brochure outlining the work of the organization, who it reaches, what it does, and the impact it is having on those it serves.  In other words, share stories about the lives changed by participating in your services and programs. Then, use it to build relationships. (Be careful not to include too many details, a brochure should give highlights, not every single detail about the programs and services).

Host a friend-raising event. People give to organizations they are connected to and can trust. Connections and trust are built through relationships. Hold the event at a comfortable place such as your home, a casual restaurant, or another location where there are few distractions. The event is a friendly way to get to know people and to help them get to know the organization. Use the time together to tell the story of the organization. Draw personal connections to those you serve by sharing the changes in their lives. Board members or others connected to the organization can host these gatherings. Events do not have to be complicated; in fact, often, the simpler they are, the better.

Friend-raising gatherings create a comfortable environment for people to ask questions and learn more about your organization or ministry. However, at this gathering, you will not ask people for money. Think of it this way….you are developing a relationship, just getting to know the person, building a friendship.

Once you have made your guest list, the next question is then what is going to happen at the event. First, you need to be honest about the reason for the gathering. Your invitation should simply explain:

“Host” would like to invite you to a small gathering at ____

on behalf of _____, Executive Director of XYZ Organization.

“Director” is excited to share exciting things happening at the organization.

We promise you will not ask for money!

At the end of the evening, if you are interested in learning more,

we would love to set up time to meet with you individually.


Once the gathering is over, spend some time making some personal notes about the people you met. What were their interests? How were they connected to the host/hostess? Do they know other people connected to the organization? Were they particularly interested in one aspect of the organization’s work? Then, the very next day, get a handwritten notecard in the mail to everyone who attended thanking them for their time.  The notecard also provides you with an opportunity to remind them you will be contacting them to schedule an individual appointment (or whatever you agreed on at the gathering).

Building a strong donor base takes time and energy. It does not happen overnight. Cultivating donor relationships in this manner will build loyal givers and go beyond a single, one-time donation.

By developing relationships, organizations can provide giving opportunities that enable donors to make donations aligned with the passions and commitments of their hearts.

Want to build a strong donor base but have no idea where to begin? Contact us, we can help you get started.

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