Tips on developing relationships with your major donors

Tips on developing relationships with your major donors

Institute of Fundraising | 26 January 2016

How can you get the best out of your relationships with major donor fundraisers and donors who are considered ‘high value’? We explore some hints and tips from the sector experts…

If you’re a newcomer to high value giving fundraising, why not take Simon Fraser University Associate Director of Development, Rory Green’s (or Fundraiser Grrl) tip on developing relationships with donors: engagement.

Rory says: “For me, major gifts boil down to this: look at all of your donors, and chose the top twenty to fifty based on passion for your cause, loyalty, connection to you organisation, and their ability to make a gift. How much could they give if you deeply engaged them, and maximized the value of the relationship?” 

Read all about the major gifts cycle in Rory’s blog post.


Kate Hogg, Senior Fundraising Consultant at the Management Centre, believes that by following certain rules, a fundraiser can assist donors to transform an organisations fundraising. The first is alignment and leadership across the organisation.

Kate says: “Is your appeal in the middle of what your corporate strategy says? It has to be and the CEO, trustees you’re your colleagues must agree. You have to work properly with your service delivery team or research team and work out basic figures on what needs to be raised, when will it be needed by and how many people will be reached. That for me is separate from the case for support – you have to tell a good story, but if you don’t know the numbers, your case will get shot down quickly.” 


There are many ways to engage with high value donors, and one of those is by holding fundraising events. Givergy, exhibitors at the IoF High Value Giving conference being held on 1 February, share five great tips on how to minimise stress but maximise impact of how donors engage at your event. Briefly, they are:

  • Focus: on a particular fundraising element to reduce guests becoming overwhelmed
  • Guest impact: invite guests who have impact on event and cause
  • Target announcement: will make your fundraising target appear achievable
  • Find a balance: between fundraising and entertainment
  • Use technology: there is an array of innovative tech to help your event run smoothly



Melissa Davis, now Head of Philanthropy at WIZOuk, has one main tip for major donor fundraisers: “Other than tailoring communication, my one tip for major donor fundraisers is to remain resilient. Major donor fundraising is not easy. It’s filled with highs and lows. You get rejected and ignored, sometimes on a daily or weekly basis. But it’s not personal. Know your donor, tailor your approach and persevere!”

How do you approach communication with donors, and what do you do when things aren’t always going to plan? Let us know in the comments below. 


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