Most people would agree that any major gift program is only as good the pipeline of prospects being approached. But where do the very best major gift prospects come from?



Ask any top insurance executive where do their best prospects come and the answer will always be referrals from their existing customers. In fact, this is true in just about every business, no matter what the size.

Should it be any different in the nonprofit world? Why don’t nonprofits spend as much or more time planning stewardship activities/communications as they do with trying to find new donors?

Since the success of any fundraising program is based upon relationship-building, the concept of careful and responsible management of all existing donors (stewardship) should be at the forefront of our planning and thinking.

Referrals and the Donor Relationship

Whenever you feel strong enough to refer someone to a product, service or charity you support, doesn’t doing so require your high-level belief and loyalty to that organization? It does for me every single time!

It is only natural for people to share what they believe in and like. Where would Facebook, Yelp or Pinterest be if that were not the case? Millions of people share all that they like and believe in on a daily (hourly) basis online. It is truly human nature to do so!

If someone supports your organization because they believe in your cause then it is only natural that they share that belief with others they know. Organizations who cultivate this natural human tendency are bringing the very best future major gift prospects forward.

The most important by-product of existing donor referrals is what making referrals does for the existing donor relationship. It may just be the one of the highest influencing factors in donor and gift retention!

Here is another way to think about the impact of referrals: if an employee refers a friend or a family member to join the same organization he or she is employed by, it becomes the #1 factor in higher employee retention! The same thing happens to your current donors who refer someone to support your cause.

Should Stewardship of Donors be a Key Part of Your Strategic Plan?

I hope everyone reading this post believes the answer to the above question is yes. The extra attention paid to creating and executing a donor stewardship plan will pay huge dividends to funding your mission in the future. Stewardship creates stickiness, and sticky donors are your best major gift prospects.

Happy fundraising!

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Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.