Organizing Your Donors

A number of weeks ago I had a question about organizing your donors, so I thought I’d say a few words about how different organizations I’ve worked with have organized their donor pools.

As much as I wish we could treat all donors as major donors, we have to take a targeted strategy with different donor groups. Even if you are just a one-person shop, you still need to think about organizing your donors in some way. A small development office will often have a focused solicitation letter strategy for a small group of Major Gifts donors with whom they do some additional cultivation. Often these donors are founding donors of the organization or individuals who have responded with a larger gift through your mailing campaign.

Mid-size organizations seem to divide up the work by positions. You will often see a major gifts officer or team for gifts at the $1,000 or above level (for some organizations it is as high as $5,000 or $10,000). Gifts below $1,000 are often handled by an Annual Fund team that focuses on mailing campaigns, online giving, and large events. Some of the larger mid-size shops have their own business giving and event planning departments.

Large organizations tend to divide their donors in a similar way to mid-size organizations; they just do it on a much larger scale. Many large organizations will develop a middle giving group so you will have annual fund raising, middle giving, and major gifts. Often times, these groups are subdivided into geographic regions or focus areas. A large regional organization may have 3 or more major gifts offices in a state organized by major cities. A local university may organize their fundraising by schools of business, arts, and music.

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4 Responses to Organizing Your Donors

  1. Mark Brooks says:

    I am often amazed that more groups do not segment their donor pools. To treat everyone the same way is either laziness or ignorance. Different levels of donors have different questions and concerns. To treat everyone the same way invites disaster. I do find your level of break down from high level of donations interesting. I would be interested in what others see as a breakdown.

  2. Jason Dick says:

    Mark great comment I agree completely. How do you breakdown donors with organizations you’ve worked with?

  3. This is great. I’d like to add that small organizations can pick out 20-25 donors who make the biggest difference to that organization (whether money or referrals to others who can give), and do something special for this group once a month. It might be a phone call a day to someone in this group, or a special card with a personal note, or a clipped out article and hand-written Post-It sent. It takes a few minutes a day, but since this group can make the biggest difference, it’s worth some special treatment.

    Also, you didn’t mention it, but one special group can be monthly donors — people who make a monthly gift by credit card or electronic fund transfer from their checking account. Fundraisers need to treat this group separately — I knew one donor who dropped out because she never got a thank-you for her monthly gift. If fundraisers treat this group separately, they’ll also work harder to add to it.

  4. […] We’re Reading, Week fo 12/14 From A Small Change… Organizing Your Donors Jason at A Small Change takes an interesting look at how different organizations seem to organize […]

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