Is a Donor Club Right for Your Organization?

Addressing a fundamental question

In fundraising there are basically two fundamental questions that every nonprofit organization needs to answer:

1) “How do you acquire new donors?” and 2) “How do you cultivate your donors over time?”

Really, it is that simple. But of course, simple doesn’t necessarily equate to easy (if only that were the case!)

Let’s briefly examine the second of these questions: How do you cultivate your donors over time? There are, of course, many ways a nonprofit can do this; to strengthen relationships with their donors and encourage them to give at higher and higher levels. If an organization has unlimited resources, one could think of a myriad of different, and very creative, ways to cultivate donors. But the fact is that most organizations have limited, and in some cases, very limited, resources—that include time, money, and human capacity.

The challenge then is how to best cultivate donors—and perhaps large numbers of donors—with limited resources.  

Creating a system that rewards and recognizes

Donor clubs are a particularly terrific way to address this universal resource problem when it comes to cultivating donors.

Donor clubs are programs that reward and recognize donors for their gifts and commitment to your organization. They also encourage donors to upgrade their giving to higher levels and to become more involved in the life of your organization. In other words, a donor club is both a donor recognition program and a major-gift program.

At its most basic level, a donor club is a systematic program in which your organization categorizes, or groups, donors based on the dollar level of their donations. Different levels may receive unique benefits and recognition. They may also be approached through differentiated methods of solicitation and cultivation.

In short, donor clubs work. And, importantly, they work best when they 1) reflect the mission and character of your organization, and 2) advance the relationship you are trying to create with your donors.

Maximizing efficiencies and prioritizing resources

If properly developed, they can help create greater efficiencies, help organizations prioritize and marshal their limited resources, and significantly increase donor giving. In fact, a recent survey by our firm, American Philanthropic, of nearly 200 nonprofit organizations, found that groups with organizationally important major donor clubs raise considerably more per individual donor annually, than do groups without such clubs (amazingly, up to three times as much!). 

So, is it time that you create and launch a successful donor club? I suspect you know the answer.  


Learn more about donor clubs—including five reasons to have one—and how one could benefit your organization during Doug’s live webinar, How To Supercharge Your Fundraising with a Donor Club, on May 24. 


Schneider, Doug

DOUG SCHNEIDER is a Managing Partner with American Philanthropic, LLC, a national consulting firm that provides strategic consulting and professional services for philanthropies and nonprofits. Doug has nearly two decades of experience in sales, marketing, communications, and fundraising. Prior to joining American Philanthropic, Doug served as the Director of Development for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). In this capacity he managed ISI’s annual fund, was part of ISI’s management team that raised an operating budget of $10 million per year, and oversaw the Institute’s marketing and communications efforts. As a partner at American Philanthropic, Doug works with a wide range of nonprofit organizations, with a focus on strategic planning and high-level development management.