The Secret To Engaging Major Donors During Year-End

Tina Jepson
Tina Jepson

Your nonprofit or charity may be raising upwards of 30% or more of your budget within the next few months. And yes, one hundred $50 donations are going to help get you through to the next fiscal year. But a handful of $1,000 or $5,000 gifts from major donors could also do the trick.

When I worked as a fundraiser, our development team spent a lot of time and effort ensuring that our major donors were satisfied with the experience we were providing. Why? Because it’s common for 20% of your donors to fund around 80% of your budget. So, although the number of major donors compared to average-gift donors is relatively small, their gifts are absolutely vital.

Major donors retained year-after-year make our job as fundraising professionals a whole lot easier. Therefore, it’s best to keep these folks happy and engaged throughout the year.

Are you looking for ways to engage your major donors during year-end? We’ve got the secret right here.

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Make It Personal

At CauseVox, we believe that you should work on building a strong relationship with your donors throughout the year and not just reach out when it’s time to make the ask. After all, it’s a “relational” relationship, not a transactional one!

Plus, by staying connected with educational and engagement opportunities (even during “off” times), your donors are much more likely to open their hearts and wallets during your year-end fundraising campaign.

Here are some ways that you can engage your major donors so they’re ready to give as the year comes to a close.

engaging major donors


Start sowing the seeds for a long-term relationship with major donors beginning with the introduction. In fact, one of the best ways to meet major donors is through referrals from your current major donors. You can also do prospect research on your own or by using a tool like Donor Search.

When you initially connect with prospective major donors, give them enough information to help form an emotional bond to your cause before making the ask.

Throughout the year, give your current major donors inspiration to fuel their desire to not just donate once but become a recurring donor. To do this, feature stories in your communications that highlight clients served and lives changed and keep a healthy mix of need and inspiration in your content in the process.

When crafting nonprofit stories that connect your major donors to your cause, make it personal. Donors appreciate being told stories of real clients and viewing images that show a “behind the scenes” look at your work.

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Really get to know your major donors over the course of the year through conversations and even online questionnaires.

Find out what makes them tick. What are they passionate about? Why are they so invested in your cause? And, most importantly, what can you do to improve their experience with your organization? Is it more volunteer opportunities, or maybe a chance to serve on your board?

Once you learn about your donor, don’t just store the information in your head. Input this data into your nonprofit CRM or donor database so that other staff and volunteers can build on your notes.


Use the information you gathered from the “Learn” phase to tailor opportunities for engagement. For example, consider asking major donors to participate in volunteer opportunities or serve a role on the board.

One great way to keep major donors active is by asking them to become personal fundraisers for your year-end peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.

If you haven’t done so already, try meeting with your major donor one-on-one. You’ll each be able to put a face to the name which helps to solidify your relationship.


All donations collected from your donors are vital for your organization, but major donors and their gifts carry a lot of weight. Donors giving $500, $1,000, $10,000 and more are showing you that your cause matters to them. They prioritize you, so prioritize them!

When it comes time, make the ask personal for all major donors. At the very least, schedule a Skype date or a phone meeting. Be honest with them, especially if you’re nearing the end of the year and you’re far from your goal. Major donors need to know that their gift matters.

Also, pay close to attention to donors that gave last year, but haven’t yet sent in their gift this year, or what Roy Jones refers to as LYBNTY (Last Year But Not This Year). Make sure that you’ve engaged this donor before making the year-end ask!

Remember, your donor is investing a significant amount of money in your cause and they’re worthy of your time. Go the extra mile to make the ask personal.


Again, it’s all about knowing your donor and understanding what they appreciate when it comes to thanking your donor for their year-end gift.

It’s possible they just want a pat on the back and a personalized, handwritten thank you note. Or, maybe they deserve (and want) to be spotlighted on your website.

The gesture doesn’t necessarily have to be big, but it should be meaningful to that individual.

Show Impact

What did that donor’s gift provide? Whether it was X number of meals, X acres conserved, or X people advocated for, your major donor needs to know how THEY impacted the year-end fundraising campaign.

As you can see, the relationship between the donor and nonprofit shouldn’t just be based on a series of emails and donation receipts.

Major donors want (and expect) more.

When it comes to engaging your major donors during year-end, it’s the relationship you’ve built over the year(s) that will make the difference.

Follow a personalized donor engagement cycle with your major donors so that when the time comes to ask for year-end donations, your donors will not only know your cause, but they’ll understand the need and feel emotionally connected to the outcome.

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