Wouldn’t it be great if you had a dedicated, tight-knit circle of supporters who were in it for the long haul and committed to donating to your organization year after year? A donor club sounds like a godsend to fundraising but it in reality, it takes a great deal of thought and patience in equal measure to create and cultivate one.

After having spent the last few years focusing on forming donor clubs from the ground up, here are a few tried and true tactics I’ve found successful.

Where to find your donor club members.

The most solid way I’ve found to bring in new members is to start with who is already donating to your organization. They know you, they evidently love you enough to have donated at some point, and they are usually happy to be recognized as a special member of your new donor club.

Only have one reliable, enthusiastic donor? Perfect. She’s the founding member of your club. She’s also your chief ambassador to gather new members. Ask her to host an intimate dinner with a few of her closest friends and invite a couple of your prospects to join you for the evening. As the founding member and the hostess, she’ll be the ideal one to sell her dinner guests on joining the club she just co-founded. Just be sure to provide her with all the messaging and material she needs for this.

After you’ve gathered a few members, host small, unique experiences just for them and ask them to each bring someone new to learn about your work. Be patient and build your member base one relationship at a time.

Once they join, love them up.

It cannot be emphasized enough: Donor clubs require your consistent, heartfelt attention. You cannot ask a donor to join your club, then ignore her for the rest of the year. You shouldn’t do that with any donor, really, but with a donor club it is especially important that you love your members up on a regular basis.

There are a few ways to make your members feel special. A member-only newsletter or VIP invitations to your events are always sure bets. Publicly acknowledging the donor club and its members as having made your programming possible adds to their feeling of status. Asking for their feedback will not only lead to useful insights, it will also make them feel more invested in your work and the process.

In all cases, make it clear to your donor club members how their support positively impacts your mission.

Perks of participation.

You’ve likely heard the push to, “give a little more and get a free tote bag,” or some such gift in exchange for upping your donation a smidge. If you donate, you get perks. And the more you donate, the better the perks. These are often referred to as donor levels and they can be a successful tactic, particularly for the more transactional type of fundraising.

The bottom line is that when donors agree to join your club, they do have a reasonable expectation of something in exchange to make their membership worth it. But what that something is, I’ve found, is entirely open to interpretation. I’ve offered physical gifts, merchandise discounts, private events, VIP access, special recognition and behind-the-scenes sneak peeks at our programming.

I’ve also offered no tangible benefit at all in exchange for a donor club membership, other than the prestige of supporting our mission. That worked, by the way. Donors give because they believe in your cause. They don’t necessarily need, or even want, perks. However, in order to make that work, you must double down on making your members feel like gold. At this level, they are not just donors, they are your dear friends.

When it comes to all of this, I’ve discovered one important thing above all:

What they really want is to feel included.

Whether it means that they are the first to know any exciting news about our organization or that they are accepted by our team as integral partners to our accomplishments. They don’t want to just be donors, they want to be family.

Donor club members want to feel as though they belong to the mission alongside those of us working it.

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