When my husband and I checked in to our hotel room last Friday, we discovered an appealing cheese plate and hand-written thank-you note to welcome us back to the property for yet another ski season. The note from our reservation agent reflected our own excitement about kicking-off the ski season. She wished us many happy powder days and, of course, a good stay at the hotel. Bellmen and the concierge staff also offered us a warm welcome greeting us by name. I thought repeatedly about how I needed to learn their names too!

This hotel is not the Ritz Carlton and we’re not “big spenders”. Rather we’re repeat guests, who indulge in a few hotel stays during each ski season. Put together, all this attention makes us feel valued as customers. Booking rooms for next year seems probable already.

Do your donors feel this type of appreciation?

I can’t help but draw a parallel with nonprofits cultivating long-term supporters and our recent hotel experience. How do nonprofits greet repeat donors and keep them feeling valued? 

Here are some tips I gleaned from our sense of loyalty for the Vail Cascade Resort.


The hotel staff knows us by name and gladly engages us in conversation, whether to learn about the ski conditions or if we need help with a dinner reservation. By the end of the ski season we will know each other even better. How often do nonprofits interact with their donors?  When do conversations actually occur?

Tip: Create a quarterly action to “check-in” and connect with repeat donors.

Who are your loyal donors? 

Most nonprofits are well aware of their Major Donors and have routines in place to cater to these important supporters. But, what about those repeat “Steady Eddie” donors who make consistent donations year after year? Does your organization know these people and how they wish to be recognized? Repeat donors represent a pipeline of consistent revenue and potential.

Tip: Study your database of annual donors to identify patterns. Learn how repeat donors have become linked to your nonprofit and use this connection to design logical outreach.

What’s the big deal?

Some nonprofits make no distinction between a repeat donation and an annual gift. Yet a repeat gift is a huge benchmark not to go unnoticed. Make a big deal of the second gift (and then the third, fourth, fifth, etc.)

Tip: Create a “tickler” file in your Constituent Relationship Management database for second-time and repeat donors for certain actions to occur. Perhaps for second-time donors, an additional letter is sent from the Executive Director or Board Chair.  For the third and fourth gift, send out an additional post card with an amazing photograph. For a fifth donation, send a link to a brief thank-you video from the ED or staff or invite them to your offices for a VIP tour.

Frankly first time donors also need extra attention so as to feel motivated to make a repeat donation. Create an extra–special “Welcome” package inviting them to enjoy a special relationship with your nonprofit. Make sure to check in with these first-time donors again during the year about their interests and share progress on your nonprofit’s mission advancement, before a second solicitation is sent.

Cultivation events

Admittedly with a huge donor-base it’s difficult to reach everyone. Here’s when a series of well-organized “turn-key” gatherings can help. There’s nothing like in-person contact! 

Tip: Create simple personal events to share news and celebrate your work.  Maximize events already in place with clear communication upfront and strong follow-up. After the gathering, reach out to those you met as well as others you didn’t have time to connect with. Call them, write a note, or send an email, whichever mode of communication fits best with their preferences.

IAmy salt and peppahn 2014 it’s time to add sincere sugar and spice to repeat donor relationships.  Offer a platter of specific ways to connect with loyal donors.  Spend the year learning who exists behind first and second introductions. Appreciate and sincerely grow your relationships. Make it real.