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More Donors, Bigger Gifts, or Both? 4 Strategic Paths for your Individual Giving Program

It’s not only peak fundraising time, it’s also peak planning time! If you are like many other organizations we know, you’re in the thick of it.

Planning is a tricky balance. You want to be aspirational, but also realistic. You want to make progress, but you only have so many resources.

We thought we’d help out by putting together a list of strategic paths that you might consider in planning your 2018 individual giving program.

Some would say you should be doing all of these things, and in a long-standing individual giving program, you might be!

But our experience in years of planning is that more progress is made by naming a specific strategic fundraising goal and going for it!

Here’s a list of a few potential strategic paths that you might take to take your individual giving program to the next level in 2018. We’ve also added some handy links to resources that are available on our site:

1 Get more new donors and build the base: Bring new people into the organization through direct marketing channels (like mail and online), events, and peer-to-peer fundraising. As you widen your base, you have more people giving more money to your organization.

What it takes: This path requires an upfront investment of resources to be successful. Direct mail, online fundraising, and events all require money and certain level of scale to deliver enough revenue to even cover costs. If you’re building your base through people-to-people networking, you’ll need a group of dedicated ambassadors.

 Check out our free Acquisition for Grassroots Groups if you are looking for ways to recruit more donors.


2 Retain your donors and get them to give regularly: Ensure that your donors continue to give to your organization through retention efforts and good stewardship. This will increase revenue by ensuring gifts beyond that very first one that you’ve invested in so dearly! Also consider creating a monthly giving program so that you create a dependable, devoted group of supporters.

What it takes: This path requires staff and volunteers who are specifically tasked to take care of the organization’s donors through whatever communication channels have been established. For a monthly donor program, your organization will have to invest in a system that can dependable process the gifts and will take care of the donor information.

 Use our Leaky Bucket workbook to determine and improve your retention rate.


3 Build a pipeline to major and planned gifts: Provide a way for donors to travel from giving through direct mail and events to having a more personal relationship with the organization.

What it takes: This path requires dedicated resources for sifting through donors to see who is ready to be more involved and engaged with your organization. We’ve seen organizations use phone, personal visit, personalized proposals, and giving clubs to inspire donors to get to the “middle donor” level.

Check out your middle donor potential by using our Middle Donor Calculator.


4 Expand your major gift program: Concentrate on bringing a smaller number of donors to higher levels of giving.

What it takes: Organizations don’t have to have a very large base of support to have a major gifts program. They just need to have a vision, a strong case for support, and the projects to interest major donors. Time from executive staff, board members, and fundraising staff is needed to cultivate, solicit, and steward these gifts.

Start with our Prospect Identification Exercise to identify potential major gift donors.


Look carefully at your organization’s strategy, assets, and fundraising growth trajectory when considering your next move for your individual giving program. Every path is unique!

Where should you concentrate your efforts as you go into your planning for 2018?


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