One problem that every not-for-profit organization encounters is the need to raise money to fulfill the organization’s purpose. Some not-for-profits have an established circle of major donors who regularly make large charitable contributions, while other organizations seem to plead with anyone for a contribution in any monetary amount.

A great way to motivate donors and reduce fundraising pressures on your staff is through building and strengthening relationships with individual donors. This is especially true with major donors, or those donors who make a major investment in your organization.

Forming strong relationships with major donors should be a priority for a not-for-profit organization. Focus your efforts on making connections with specific groups that share a common value, culture, or location. By narrowing your fundraising efforts to specific groups as opposed to marketing to the general public, your organization will be less likely to exhaust valuable resources, such as time and money.

Fundraising can be extremely successful when organizations engage with one or more of these specific audiences. The first step in making an initial connection may be finding a person with a pre-established relationship to the potential donor who can vouch for your organization. People to consider may be board members, employees, or even previous donors. Once the initial connection is made, you may consider inviting your potential donor to a non-ask event held by your organization. Be up front with your intention to familiarize the potential donor with your organization. It may be advantageous to inform them that there is no expectation for a contribution at this time. This will remove any pressure or hesitation they may have in attending such an event.

There are a number of considerations to be mindful of as you begin to build strong relationships with your potential donors. Be honest about your intentions to build a relationship with them or their business. Start by having candid conversations with them. Share your organization’s successes and its failures. Ask them for their advice or suggestions. Seek feedback and be open to constructive criticism. These things will help build trust between your organization and potential donors, showing that you value their contribution as well as their opinions.

As the relationship strengthens between your organization and your donors, reiterate the importance of their support as they are making an investment in your organization. Continue having open conversations with your donors about the vision of the organization’s future and showing them how you intend to use their investment to pursue the organization’s mission. When major donors feel involved and can see how their contributions are bettering others, they will be encouraged to support a compelling, mission-driven organization, which serves as a wise investment to the community.