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Updated: May 24, 2023

Hello, gracious audience! Thank you for joining me today for this donor tale. I share this tale for the many lessons it has to impart. So grab a snack, sit back and enjoy.

ACT 1: The Donor Meet

Years ago, when I was an up-and-coming non-profit executive director, still slightly damp behind the ears, a Donor approached my organization with a major gift opportunity. We were in the beginning stages of a building project, and they wanted to make a significant gift in memory of their spouse, who recently passed away.

My eyes shining with excitement, I enthusiastically said, “YES.” The project was completed, an opening event was scheduled, and The Donor was invited and thanked. They were pleased.

ACT 2: The Donor Advancement

Flash forward six months to year-end of the same year. The organization was heading into our first strategically planned year-end campaign with direct mail, email, and social media – all the bells and whistles. But we were lacking an important thing that would be the icing on the fundraising cake:

A matching gift challenge.

I gathered up my gumption, reached out to The Donor, and asked if they would be willing to give a match challenge gift. Why, yes, they said. The Donor had never heard of a matching gift and loved the idea of doubling their impact. They were even more thrilled when the campaign skyrocketed past the goal.

In fact, The Donor was so thrilled they continued to fund the year-end match challenge for the next three years.

ACT 3: The Donor Second Act

In 2020, I left my organization and started my consulting business. I kept in contact with The Donor, and we developed a personal friendship free of any conflicts of interest.

After several years of working with The Donor while at my organization, I knew their passions were animal welfare and education for children. Recently, I was leading a campaign for an animal welfare organization, and it was a project I felt The Donor would be interested in helping to fund.

I forwarded the campaign materials to The Donor and asked if they would like to fund a match challenge gift. “Absolutely,” they said.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. Amazing even.

For three weeks, the campaign went slowly, and then we introduced the match. Two $3,000 donations came in to help meet the match. Then two $5,000 donations came in. Then another donor stepped forward with another $10,000 gift which became a second match. That match also was met.

So from the first $10,000 match from The Donor, $36,000+ in major gifts for the campaign!

See? Amazing.

And here’s the cherry on top of that awesomeness.

When I called The Donor to relay all of this news, they were, of course, thrilled. And then it happened . . .

The Donor thanked ME for giving them the opportunity to give.

Folks, if you want to know if you are doing fundraising right, that’s how.


Let’s recap the main lesson learned from this tale: Donor Relations for the Win. Both short-term wins as well as long-play wins. How was that achieved here?

I’m glad you asked.

  • I stayed in contact with The Donor throughout the initial building project, sending updates, including photos.

  • I ensured board members and volunteers knew who The Donor was so they could thank them at the opening event.

  • I stayed in touch with The Donor throughout the year–calls, emails, a lunch or two–to build on the relationship, so months had not gone without contact when I asked The Donor about the year-end match.

  • Throughout the year-end campaigns, I kept in contact with The Donor providing updates.

  • Because I had built a relationship with The Donor, I knew their charitable passions, so when I was aware of an opportunity to give, I was able to approach them.

And, because I had done a great job with donor relations, they thanked ME for giving them the opportunity to give.

And here’s the real tale within this tale: Though it requires consistency, and can be a story with many chapters, donor relations works. So do it. I promise the reward will be great!

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