Bliou Enterprises


Which Donors Do You Remember?

February 15th, 2012

In Annual Giving, we “Keep the Base of the Pyramid Strong,” as I say, but it’s awfully crowded down here. Unlike Major Gifts, we rarely get to know our donors personally. Still, some become memorable. Which ones are yours?

Although Annual Giving professionals deal in mass quantities of thousands of donors, sometimes we have a memorable encounter with a donor – either at an event, over the phone, or simply from a feedback form or note included in an email or direct mail contribution that makes us stop and smile.  The single donor becomes distinguished from the masses, and we often remember that person . . . perhaps for some time.

When such a contributor makes an impression, it’s a good idea to follow up with them and ask if they would be willing to share their views on your organization, written as an appeal (and/or video).  The most dedicated champions for your cause can provide compelling testimonials on your behalf, and often end up as excellent fundraising advocates.

Some others in Annual Giving have shared their recollections of such donors below:


When I got a personal note attached to a check, explaining that, “Since I’m out of work, this is all I can afford to send, but I want to help…” That’s when I knew I had a great appeal letter!  I modeled a couple of letters after that donor’s feedback, and they were quite successful.


One of our phonathon volunteers asked me to assist when the questions “got too hard” on the other end of the line.  It turned out that the person we called had a few complaints – about our newsletter, her missing receipt for the last gift, and so on.  I spent at least ten minutes on that call, plus a follow up call the next day, but she was so pleased to have someone listen and respond to her concerns, that she ended up doubling her (fairly small) gift once I fixed the problems.  She’s now a major donor.


I remember a boy who wrote to us, saying that he decided to ask for donations to our charity from his family and friends, in lieu of gifts for his bar mitzvah.  That was quite touching.


One donor sent us a check for $2.  We’d gotten cash in small amounts on rare instances, but a check?  I decided that this must be a test, to see if, how and when we acknowledged the gift.  I figured that, based upon our response, perhaps a larger gift would follow, and that he had sent similar “tests” to several organizations.  I sent a very glowing thank you letter promptly.

A few months later, he sent us a check for $5!  Again, I sent an appreciative letter right away.

This went on about every quarter, to the point that when his envelope arrived, we had an office pool, wagering on our “small donor’s” amount:  $5? $3? $2?  In two years, he never gave as much as ten dollars in a single envelope, but he gave regularly – and was still doing so when I left.  I still maintain that I was cultivating a larger donor, but didn’t stay long enough to learn if I was correct or not.


The donor who asked questions and listened when I said what the money was going to be used for.  When I got to the part about how we needed a new printer, she said that even though she couldn’t afford to contribute much, she thought she knew someone who could donate that equipment, and put us in contact with them!  Even though she hasn’t been able to give a great deal of money, she has been able to procure us several items for the office at a discount, through her connections.


I remember a certain donor who called to complain about our constant database errors.  It seemed that between our event database and donor database, we continually accidentally listed him as being married to a woman in town with the same last name, although they weren’t even related.  He knew quite a bit about her contact information, and this clearly wasn’t the first (or second) time he had tried to get this resolved, so that her name was no longer on the mail we sent him.

I apologized, and assured him that I would make attempts to correct the matter – in both databases.  I could tell that he had doubts, but was grateful not to have a “fake wife” on his documents any longer.  Later, I noticed a larger gift from him the next time, because I was watching for any problems with this record getting entered incorrectly during the next event cycle, etc.

We saw in the last presidential election how essential – and powerful – the Annual Giving donor could be.  It appears that the same may well be true in this upcoming election as well.  Preliminary results show that 48% of Obama’s primary contributions in 2011 were received from “small donors,” defined as those giving $200 or less.  This same study also listed Obama raising nearly the same amount of personal funds as all ten of the GOP candidates combined, most of whom did not fare as well with smaller donors.

When cultivated properly – and listened to – many Annual Giving donors can be moved up into major donors, or at least mid-level donors.

What do you find helps to keep the base of your pyramid the strongest?

Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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