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Executive Director, Good Shepherd Services.
Credit: Volunteers of America
helping individuals and families in need

How to Make Your Donors Feel like Heroes

As the end of the year draws year, it seemed a great time for us to stop and really think about the donors that make the work we all do possible.  How do we properly express our appreciation for their generosity?  For advice on the topic, we turned to fundraising pro Rachel Muir.  Thanks for this great guest post Rachel!


How to Make Your Donors Feel like Heroes

As we approach the peak of end of year fundraising and the beginning of a new year I encourage you to take a short break to call your major gift donors and congratulate them on how they are making an impact.  If you are doing a double take its true, I did not say call them to say thank you!  I said call and congratulate your donors on how they are making an impact.  Your donors made a difference, let them know!  Your donors are the hero of your story.  Tell them how their giving has made an impact.  Schedule a power hour of calls on your calendar and start dialing.  You will likely get voice mails but be surprised how quickly it takes and what a meaningful impact it can have on end of year giving and donor retention.

As fundraisers it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  We never have enough time to tackle everything on our task list (and I just heaped yet another thing to it).  The fundraising options around us are positively dizzying.  In the midst of juggling everything we’re doing to raise money I invite you to take a moment to get clarity around what inspires donors to give.

First and foremost to secure any major gift you have to understand your donor’s interests.  You must know what they are passionate about. Giving is about the giver, not about the organization or the cause. The organization is the conduit through which donors live their interests and aspirations.  You should know your major donors passions and interests – if you don’t ask them!  Call them and let them know you want to get better acquainted with them as a part of serving their needs and letting them know how they are making an impact.  This is a critical step in portfolio assessment that allows you to determine how to best focus your energy on donors who want to have a deeper relationship with you and maximize your major gift giving.

Let’s assume you’ve taken that step and know what they care about.  Donors want to feel like their gift can make a difference.  Describing a litany of needs on behalf of your organization or the unquenchable challenges of population you serve can make a donor can feel overwhelmed.  They can feel like their gift won’t matter and worse, like the problem may not be solvable.  Give them a bold creative clear cut solution to an issue they cared about and detail the positive outcomes of the change they will bring about.  It’s easier to wrap your hands around a dream with a clear solution.  A laundry list of needs and feel defeating and overwhelming quickly.

Did you notice I said the change they will bring about?  Major gifts and planned gifts are about making your dream their dream.  It is not about you or your needs.  It’s about them – your job is to help them do good.



Rachel Muir has over 20 years’ experience starting and running nonprofits.  When she was just 26 years old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show.  Featured in CosmoGIRL!, Texas Monthly, Glamour, and The Dallas Morning News, and most recently Fundraising Success, Muir is a winner of Oprah Winfrey’s Use Your Life award, a three time finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award, was named “Outstanding Fundraising Executive of the Year” by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and is one of Fast Company Magazines “Fast 50″ Champions of Innovation.

Rachel works with a diverse set of clients as an independent fundraising consultant advising organizations and boards on fundraising, leadership, management, strategic planning, marketing, media planning and more.