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Moves Management for Nonprofits

A Beginner's Guide from Bloomerang

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What is moves management?

This is a term that’s important to the nonprofit sector because it is associated with donor development. “Moves” relates to the donor life cycle from an individual to prospective donor to first-time donor and on — hopefully to an upgraded, renewing, or major donor. “Moves” are the actions and touches your organization takes to establish these relationships and move prospective donors closer to your cause and mission.

How well your nonprofit does at moving donors through the gift cycle plays a role in your donor retention and donor engagement efforts. The better you do at this process, the more engaged your donors are, and the higher your donor retention rate will be. As you get started with moves management, it’s important to define your donor life or gift cycles and what each tier means and how donors and prospective donors can move from one level to the next. Before beginning with donor cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship within the “moves” process, it’s important to make sure you have the identification, research, and strategy steps figured out first. You can simply add identification, research, and strategy into each of your moves management stages: cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship. Create a strategic action plan for each of the three stages and make sure that plan includes your research, qualifications, and goals.

Understanding gift and donor life cycles

As stated, within the moves management process you have the individual components of donor cultivation, donor solicitation and constituent communications, and donor stewardship and relationship-building. In addition to those stages you also have several life cycles that your donors can phase through including, first-time donor, donor renewals and upgrades, major gift donors, and legacy or planned giving. A donor can lapse, of course, at any point in the stage once they’re past the first-time donor cycle, but the hope is that focusing on successfully “moving” donors can help you decrease your lapsed donor number by increasing engagement. Remember, it’s up to your organization to do the initial work and planning for each stage, as well as defining what each life cycle means and looks like based on your average gift size.

Now, let’s dive into each of these important concepts, components, and stages for nonprofits to understand and focus on in order to complete the whole process and move their donors and prospective donors towards the major donor level.

Donor cultivation

Building and deepening relationships with donors and prospective donors is one of the most important things a nonprofit can do to see fundraising success. To get started with donor cultivation, it’s always a good idea to set goals or create a plan. Cultivation is about building lasting relationships and you need to be in it for the long haul with thoughtful action. Focus your cultivation efforts on an articulated goal, and make your next “moves” as part of a systematic plan thoughtfully designed to get you towards that end. Ensuring your donor cultivation plan has a vision, big picture goals, objectives, strategies, tactics, and accountability before you move into implementation mode is essential. Determine your goal and make it donor-centered.

Finding your best donor prospects to begin cultivating can be as simple as starting with the ones hidden in your donor database. Prospect research is difficult, but it can be easier if you start with people you already know. These can be current donors that you want to upgrade or renew, or supporters, volunteers, or lapsed donors that you could cultivate into current donors.

Another good way to cultivate donors at any stage of the funnel is to ask open-ended questions and send donor surveys to get to know your prospects and current donors, and to find out the best way to communicate to them. Donors like when we ask them questions about themselves and learning about your donors is invaluable in guiding our donor communication efforts.

Donor solicitation

In order to solicit your donors properly to move them further into your donor life cycle, you need donor management software that makes it easy for you to cultivate your relationships with your donors, survey your donors, denote your donor’s communication preferences, and segment your constituent communications.

Nonprofit data segmentation is a must to help you better solicit your donors. The lack of personalized communications is one of the core reasons that donors stop giving. Organizations who segment their donors into unique groups based on frequency and recency of giving, reasons for giving, interests and other demographic information have taken a significant step toward increasing their donor retention rates.

Being donor-centered in your donor solicitation efforts is the number one thing you can do to get that gift and keep it year after year or month after month. Get inside your donors’ heads to find out what they actually want from you. Focus on the donor and create a specific and tangible story of the impact their gift has made. Tip: Make sure you use the word “you” more than “us” or “we” in solicitation communications to donors or prospective donors. Our Ahern Audit feature can help your writing be more donor-centered. It’s not about you, it’s about the donor.

Donor stewardship and relationship-building

Successful donor cultivation and solicitation are key to developing and deepening your donor relationships. They all go hand in hand when it comes to moves management. Being good at developing donor relationships will happen naturally as you focus on those first two components mentioned. Personal touches are key and using custom fields in your database are another easy way to build relationships. Don’t underestimate how important authenticity with donors and communicating outcomes to them at all levels can be.

Relationship-building is the essence of fundraising. If you are building or enhancing relationships with your donors, you are literally moving ahead two vital strategies for fundraising success in the long term. First, you and your team are improving donor retention. This is essential, because if a donor is not maintained from year to year, it is nearly impossible to facilitate the knowledge and engagement levels needed to upgrade their giving to a major gift level. Secondly, multiple years of being retained allows all of the factors necessary for a major gift to come to fruition for a donor. Just think of what can happen during year after year of giving.

Donor upgrades and renewals

Getting a first-time donor to make a second gift is crucial to increasing your donor retention rate. Getting a donor to give again, whether that’s on a monthly or annual basis, is the best thing you can do for your donor retention rate. According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, only 23% of first-time donors ever make another gift. You can use moves management to move those first-time donors into repeat donors. The first step is rewarding and satisfying the donor with personal touches.

Subsequently, once that donor has become a current donor, you can work on upgrading them — either to give more frequently or to give more. It’s important to have a separate plan of action for each donor segment of first-time, monthly, and annual donors — and ending with the next section below. The best way to motivate and upgrade nonprofit donors is to satisfy donors by giving them what they want (appreciation!), meeting them where they are, and connecting them with your mission.

Major donors and major gift fundraising

Even the smallest organization can begin to steward, cultivate, and secure donations that aren’t just significant to your organization, but significant to the donor. Savvy fundraisers are moving in the direction of putting more focus on major gifts because giving is dropping in the small and medium gift buckets. Upgrading your mid-level donors into major donors is possible, as is finding new donors that could already be at your organization’s major gift level.

Focusing on and having a plan for major gift donors is the last piece of the donor development puzzle. The easiest place to kickstart major gift fundraising and start looking for major donors are the ones already in your database, or already associated with or supporting your nonprofit. Identification, prioritization, and qualification are the first steps before you begin cultivating and stewarding your major donor prospects. Donor retention rate has actually dropped overall, but the retention rate for major donors is usually higher than the standard average, so it’s even more important to take advantage of creating and investing in a major gift program.

Claire Axelrad, JD, CFRE, has created a 3-part major gift fundraising series that can help you get started creating your major gift program:

If you want to see a real-life example of how a Bloomerang customer engages major donor prospects, click here.

Major gift fundraising

Legacy or planned giving

If you can do all the steps above correctly, you’re already well on your way to securing legacy gifts from your most dedicated and engaged donors. The number one reason a current donor doesn’t include your nonprofit in their will or trust is because they were never asked, so it’s important to make asking for legacy gifts a priority. You can accomplish this by writing and talking about legacy giving in simple, understandable terms. Make it easy for the donor to understand how this works and that it’s an option for them. Spread the word about your case for legacy giving, spend time on prospect research and segmentation, focus on donor-friendly stewardship, and talk about the value and fulfillment of leaving a legacy. Talking about death doesn’t have to be as macabre as you think. Make the focus more about honoring their lives!

And of course, the number one thing is to set up a meeting with your donor, explain how everything works, make them feel heard, and go for the simple “ask.”

Data segmentation plays a key role in the moving donors through the gift cycles

As you likely already know, and we’ve already mentioned, donor data segmentation plays an important role in helping you upgrade and retain donors. If you do it right, segmenting your donors can increase the lifetime value of your donor base.

A lack of personal communication is one of the core reasons that donors stop giving to you.

Organizations who segment their donors into unique groups based on frequency and recency of giving, reasons for giving, interests and other demographic information have taken a significant step toward increasing their donor retention rates.


Because they can tailor messaging precisely for that constituent; messaging that will resonate with them and move them to continue supporting the nonprofit. You can usher in a new era of donor engagement for your organization by segmenting your communications. And if you need help getting started (no matter what software or CRM you use) you can read A Beginner’s Guide to Nonprofit Data Segmentation.


If done correctly, moves management can be an invaluable process for your nonprofit to employ on your donor retention and engagement journey. The better you are at cultivating and soliciting donors, the more sustainable your nonprofit can become. Nonprofit sustainability can only get better when you succeed at engaging, soliciting, and stewarding your donors at every stage of their life cycle. Discover where gaps lie in your organization’s potential to succeed with individual donations. Did you know? A good donor database can make getting started with successful donor development even easier for your nonprofit. Download and read our Buyer’s Guide to Fundraising Software to determine which option is best for you.

Happy fundraising!

Additional Resources to Help You Get Started

Major gift fundraising

Upgrading and retaining donors

Donor data segmentation

Legacy gifts and planned giving

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