Donor Engagement: When Face to Face Isn’t Possible

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If you are a Major Gift Officer or other “relationship manager,” you are likely craving human interaction while simultaneously re-imagining years of best practices teaching that face-to-face is always the best way to engage your most generous donors.

During times of uncertainty, most major donors will want to hear from you – to know you care about their well-being and to update them on what your organization is doing differently (and what remains unchanged!) during this time of disruption. Reaching out by email or phone is fine (don’t stop doing it) – and suggesting that you meet by video conference might be welcomed. While some donors might not be familiar with Skype, Zoom, or other platforms, many regularly interact with children, grandchildren or friends on their phone through FaceTime or other means. They may even be interested in having a view of your home office or some parts of your life that you don’t usually share. (We’re all in this together.) For a laugh, check out this BBC interview from a home office that goes awry.

Everyone loves an authentic interaction and during times of stress, letting down your personal guard and interacting as a person rather than an employee can go a long way in building trust and bonds with your major donors.

However, video chat isn’t for everyone…so what are some other options?

  • Ask your CEO, Board Chair, or someone in direct service at your nonprofit to record a short video and share it widely on social media and email it to donors. Something as simple as a 15 second iPhone video is easy to share.
  • Many people look for ways to be helpful and productive during times of stress and uncertainty. Other than giving, ask for specific things they can do. Can they call another donor to thank them? Can they reach out to isolated clients (ensuring you clear any confidentiality issues) to offer a friendly voice? Can they direct people to your good work through their social media?
  • Simply making a phone call to say thank you for your support this year can go a long way in keeping your organization top of mind at a later date. If you can encourage your board and committee members to make these calls, you’re cultivating them too!
  • Consult experts for help with organization-specific cultivation plans or interim support if you need some additional experts on board temporarily to reach all of your donors.


Laura Weinman has more than 20 years of Association/Nonprofit leadership experience, including serving as a Development/Marketing Consultant for over 30 organizations. She has extensive experience with development, staff recruitment, staff management, career coaching, grant writing, major gifts, planned giving, prospect research, strategic development planning, event management, sponsorship, volunteer management, and annual fundraising. She has been with KEES since 2012.