What is Donor-Centered Moves Management?

Black & white king chess pieces standing next to each other on chessboard

This guest post by Claire Axelrad, nonprofit coach and consultant. 

What is donor-centered moves management? It’s a major donor cultivation approach that combines LOVE with a great MANAGEMENT SYSTEM to plan, make, and keep track of a targeted number of “moves” or “touches” per year to major gift prospects.

Each “move” is thoughtfully crafted to move your prospect along a relationship continuum—from   awareness…to interest…to involvement…to investment—depending upon where they currently are in relationship to your nonprofit.

When sufficient “moves” have been made and your prospect is feeling really good about you—devoted, in fact—the culmination is your request for a gift or increased gift. One person, assigned as the Moves Manager, assures that all moves are coordinated and the solicitation occurs at the appropriate time.

If you simply show your donors some love – and do this intentionally and systematically – you’ll find it becomes relatively easy to take them to the next level.

You want to get your donors to the point of active commitment. This is the place where they would answer “true” to the following three questions: 

  1. I am loyal to this charity.
  2. This is my favorite charity.
  3. I am a committed donor.

So, how do you get your donors to this stage?

Major gift cultivation is a team contact sport

You want to have several people connecting with your donor over the months (or years) leading up to the “ask.” Why? No one individual is right to be matched with every prospect.

Plus, this is a great way to involve board members and other stakeholders. You don’t want your donor’s only interaction with your organization to be a hands-off, institutional one. People who personify and represent your nonprofit can and should be involved with donors. Donors need to LOVE you to make a significant commitment to your organization. And this is your and your team’s job.

Think about what’s actually going on when a donor says “Yes!” to a major gift solicitation. They’re actually saying “I love you.” They’re making an active commitment to you, your organization and your cause.

What gets them to this point? YOU DO! Your job is to create a climate for donors to fall head-over-heels for your cause. 

You’ve got to be pro-active to create this climate. One of your team members might invite them to coffee (e.g., a board member); another for a tour (e.g., a program director); another for a sit-down with the executive director. In between there will be a number of thoughtfully planned “touches” orchestrated by the development director or major gifts officer.

Everything is done according to a personal plan

You begin by developing a large list of possible “high-touch,” “medium-touch” and “low-touch”cultivation “moves” you can incorporate into your major donor-investor prospect’s individualized plan. A mass mailing of holiday cards isn’t donor-centered moves management. A move only “counts” if it’s executed according to a plan that’s personalized for each prospect.

With each move you ask yourself: 

  • How is this bringing me closer to asking for a gift?
  • What did I learn that will help me secure a gift?
  • Did I find out what motivates my prospect to be philanthropic?
  • Did I find out what they love most about my organization?
  • What does it make sense to do next?

Cookie-cutter approaches won’t cut it. You can’t do this whenever the spirit “moves” you. And you can’t do it TO the prospect.

Donor-centered moves are a deliberate, focused set of actions you do WITH your major donor prospects: the thin slice of folks (the 10 to 20 percent of your list) who give you 80 to 90 percent of your philanthropy. Each move builds on the next to build the relationship, all leading to a happy donor and a lovely generous major gift to your nonprofit. 

Are you bringing some passion into your moves management cultivation approach? If not, it could explain why you’re not getting the passionate gifts you seek.

Learn more about Donor-Centered Moves Management with Foundation Center’s webinar, "50 Ways to 'Move' Your Donor: Stewardship Solutions to Get to Yes with Finesse". Join me on May 19, from 2:00-3:30 pm ET, as I describe how to build and execute an effective step-by-step cultivation plan. You’ll also learn a novel, tried-and-true way to choreograph and measure your moves so you know exactly when you’re ready to ask. 

headshot of Claire Axelrad

Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE, is a sought-after coach and consultant, and was named Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and brings 30 years of frontline development and marketing experience to her work as principal of Clairification