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Getting More than Your Fair Share of $59 Trillion in Gifts Coming Down the Line

That’s what everyone who attended DMAW’s engaging breakfast seminar: Building Fiercely Loyal Donors learned from Marti Campbell, President and Relationship Building/Leadership Expert at Prize Inside and Kathy Swayze, CFRE, President & Creative Director at Impact Communications.

You learned in DM 101 that loyal donors are your best donors. They’re also the most likely to make legacy gifts to your organization. And according to the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, between 2007 and 2055, American households will transfer $59 trillion in assets.

So how can you make stronger emotional connections with your donors (and this applies to members and customers too)—and get more than your share of that $59 trillion?

Start Investing: Every dollar invested in stewardship and donor loyalty is an investment in capturing your share of that $59 trillion. Giving USA tells us that charitable bequests doubled in the 20 years from 1991 to 2011—and that’s just the tip of iceberg considering the trillions of dollars still being bequeathed between now and 2055.

Investing more in stewardship matters not just for planned giving, but for the health of your fundraising program overall. Right now, we’re not doing so well when it comes to retaining our donors. According to a 2014 Target Analytics Donor Centrics Index—the average retention rate of a newly acquired donor is approximately 27 percent which means seven out of every 10 new donors acquired are not staying with us.

If you’re on the commercial side of our industry, according to a 2013 Global Consumer Pulse by Accenture, 51 percent of U.S. consumers say they left a business in the past year due to poor customer service, which is up five percent from 2012. And, 81 percent of respondents said that the company could have done something differently to prevent them from switching.

The key to turning around these numbers is to make an emotional connection with your donors and members.  And it’s easier than you might think.

The most important rule is:  It’s not about you. It’s about them.  Ask your donors about their interests.

Emphasize how important their concerns and priorities are to you. Ask them to complete a survey to better understand what matters to them. Give them opportunities to feel more emotionally connected to you. Ask for their personal input. Consider employing online tools such as video to invite engagement and to share “emotional content.”

In addition to your welcome letters and emails, a very effective way to create connections is through inbound and outbound calls. And make every communication emotional. Don’t communicate with your donor’s intellect. Communicate with their heart. Listen, have empathy and get closer to donors emotionally.

Invest in creating deeper connections. Say thank you in every way, letters, emails, short outbound calls. Through outbound “thank you” calls, you can ask directly what inspired them to give, and get donors talking about why they care about your issue.

Donors become loyal when you create an emotional connection. They are more likely to continue giving, increase giving, increase engagement, and recommend you to others when you create an emotional connection. So use every communication to do just that.

And remember: To build fiercely loyal donors, you have to capture their hearts!

For more on how to connect with donors about planned gifts, we highly recommend the Research of Dr. Russell James at Texas Tech University.


Stephen Godbout, freelance copywriter with fourteen years direct marketing experience. Contact Stephen at

Marti Campbell, President, Prize Inside, helps clients develop emotional connection phone campaigns for donors and members. Contact Marti at

Kathy Swayze, CFRE, President and Creative Director of Impact Communications and passionate storyteller. Contact Kathy at