Moves Management Strategies: “Meaningful Contacts” with Your Donors

Do you ever struggle to come up with exactly the right moves management strategies for your favorite donors?  

If you’re trying to cultivate deeper relationships and “move” them along to an eventual major gift, then here’s what you need:

As many “meaningful contacts” as possible.  

Guest post from Kathryn Gamble today:

Today, we have a guest post from my consulting colleague and major gift expert, Kathryn Gamble, who’s going to give us the low-down on this important moves management strategy:

Kathryn says:

In my capital campaign consulting role and as a major gift coach, I get asked this question all the time:

What do we really mean by meaningful contacts? 

Just for fun, let’s look at these two scenarios.

They describe contacts with a donor prospect – but ONE is a deeper, meaningful contact. And, alas, the other is not.

Scenario A: Donor reveals a family trust fund.

You are having a pleasant coffee visit with your major donor prospect.  She is discussing her son’s college admission process, and tells you all about his interests and plans for campus visits.

Her son has done very well in high school and hopes to attend one of the top engineering schools in the country. 

As she muses over these possibilities, she says, “We are just so grateful that my husband’s parents established college trust funds for their grandchildren — as it opens so much opportunity for our family.”

Scenario B: You share a client thank you note with your donor – who appreciates the info.

Your organization offers a drug rehabilitation program. One day you receive a grateful thank you letter from parents of a participant.

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The parents share that they are pleased to report that their daughter is making progress and enrolling at the local community college to study design. 

The parents say your organization gave them the hope and help that has changed the trajectory of their daughter’s life. 

Now, you have a major gift prospect who supported the program that the young woman participated in.  

You ask the parents if you can share their letter with your donor – so that she can see the impact of her gift. 

The donor responds that she’s grateful to learn this. She asks if you will keep her updated on the program.

Which scenario is the meaningful contact?

Well, if you said they are both important you are right. But only one is the meaningful contact – scenario B.

Wait – What?

But the first scenario was face-to-face! And, they were talking about money. And that’s what fundraisers do!

Yes, but in Scenario B the donor learned more about the organization’s impact

And, perhaps more importantly, the donor saw her own role in helping to create happy outcomes.

Meaningful contact happens when you are able to deepen your donor’s understanding of your organization’s impact.

It happens when the donor starts to ask questions. (!)

And . . . . when they are open to further conversations about your organization’s vision and projects.

This is pure gold, from a relationship standpoint. 

Capacity: Is the donor capable of making a major gift?

So, what about Scenario A? Isn’t it important to learn more about a donor’s financial situation?

Yes, it is but knowing about their financial situation or potential capacity is just one slice of the major gift prospect profile.

Financial capacity is important, but it’s an arbitrary cut off point for measuring a major donor’s potential.

For some organizations the magic number is $1,000 and for others it is $100,000 or more.  Capacity definitely helps us determine which prospects make it to a major gift officer’s portfolio.


Financial capacity does not tell us about a donor’s inclination to make a gift — or their actual affinity to our cause.

If you’re applying the right moves management strategies, you’ll often find out your donor’s true affinity to your cause:

  • How deeply do they care?
  • Why do they care?
  • Why do they give?
  • And how likely are they to give again? 

Meaningful contacts help you answer these questions.

They lead to deeper conversations about your organization’s impact and how your donor may be able to help.

So let’s return a moment to Scenario A.  How could the major gift officer respond that could turn this conversation into a meaningful contact?  

Remember, the donor said

“…the trust funds….opens so much opportunity for our family.”  

You could actually respond this way:

“That is a wonderful thing the grandparents have done. What opportunities have you envisioned for your family?”

These types of questions can lead you to learn more about the donor’s values and goals.  

All good stuff to know, to help you create the right moves management strategies for your prospect – to lead them eventually to an easy, organic major gift ask.

Bottom Line:  Moves Management Strategies and Meaningful Contacts

You are always looking to deepen your prospect’s understanding of your work and impact.

That’s what moves management is all about!