Developing Donors

Lately, all my workshops are about donor development. It’s what much of my consultingdonordevelopment focuses on also.  How can we turn  a prospect into a donor?  But first, there needs to be clarity on what –or more accurately, who—is a prospect?

Prospects are people or organizations who have certain traits:

  1. They have an ability to make a gift of a certain size.  That size depends on what kind of a gift you are seeking.  Prospects for your annual appeal, for example, need have less capacity than those you are approaching for endowment or any other major project.
  2. They have an interest in your organization or your cause.  This is why you need to be aware of who gives to other, like organizations.  Just because they gave a gift to a school and you are a school—or to a shelter and you are a shelter—doesn’t mean they will be interested in you.  But at least there is a commonality that perhaps can help.  Keeping track of who has been involved with you and in what ways is, of course, a far better indicator of interest.  The more involved, the more likely a donor.
  3. They have an inclination to support you.  These are typically the people who have had good experiences—either as a client (happy patient programs)—or as a volunteer, donor, attendee to an event.  Again, you need to know what their relationship has been in order to understand how to cultivate them.
  4. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you have to have access to this person.  At one level, this simply means having a current address, but at the higher end, you must be able to get through to them and get them to agree to a meeting.  This is where the idea of a “natural partner” comes in.

Natural partners are those people who can (and will!) open the door.  It’s the board member who can set up a meeting (or, more likely, whose name and relationship will allow you to set up the meeting).  It’s the person who can also tell you whether the best meeting would be in the prospect’s office, early morning for breakfast, or a fancy (or not so fancy) restaurant for lunch.

The natural partner can also help you to rate this prospect—identify where on the scale of how much they can and might give.

Fundraising really is a team sport.  The bigger and more cohesive your team, the more you will win.

Winning, however, is not just in getting gifts.  It is in getting supporters.  As important as the money is, loyal donors—people who love you and love what you are doing—are far more important.  A one-time big gift can be a tremendous boost, but frequent and dependable smaller gifts will allow you to do the work you do.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase fundraising capacity.  Learn how she could help you and your organization raise more money at  While there, sign up for the free newsletter.


About janetlevineconsulting

For over 20 years, Janet Levine has worked for and with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping to grow their advancement programs. Her consulting company, Janet Levine Consulting, serves a wide range of organizations from small, all-volunteer agencies to major national organizations. She regularly teaches courses in non-profit management, fundraising and grant development, both face-to-face and online at In addition to her nonprofit work, Janet brings years of experience as a business and sales manager in the for-profit sector. She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.
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4 Responses to Developing Donors

  1. Volkmann, Joan Marie says:

    Hi, Janet—

    Your links have not worked in the last two messages. I’m missing the ability to read your entire posts!

    Many thanks for all that you do,

    • Thanks, Joan. I had thought I fixed it–but neo-Luddite that I am, I should have known better. My incomparable web guy is working on it now. I’m going to take a blog vacation until it’s fixed–the next posting should work. Keep those fingers crossed!

  2. Laura Atwell says:

    Hi. There is something wrong with your website link. You get an error message that reads HTTP Error 404.0 – Not Found The resource you are looking for has been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable. Best, Laura Atwell

    • Thanks, Laura. I am aware of the issue(s)–and am working to fix it. It’s the joys of technology–particularly for one, like me, who isn’t so technologically inclined. In a mixup, the domain name got cancelled. Got that fixed, but then, in my fix, I think I created another problem. I then decided to call on an expert, and he is working on it. I hope to have it resolved soon. Meanwhile, I’ll take a blog break and hope you’ll be back with me when I return.

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