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How to engage donors with a donor club

Building a Donor Club

At Just Cause Consulting, our most frequent advice to clients is to find the secret sauce that makes donors feel truly valued, like real partners in the mission.  This may look differently for every organization but what energizes your donors is always the right place to start.  

When it comes to individual donors and their motivations, the research is consistent.  Among the top reasons for giving are  a.) they want to feel that they are not powerless in the face of need, b.) they know that the organization they care about depends on them, and c.) they feel a sense of closeness to the mission.

So how does an organization bolster their supporters and create a feeling of kinship and connection?

One of our favorite recommendations is to create an inclusive community of donors or a donor club.  A club not only recognizes and thanks donors who give at a meaningful level, it also leads to more generosity of time, talent and resources from those who join.  

It’s fun to be creative with the name and description of a donor club and think about both symbolism and what will spark feelings of empowerment and community among your supporters.  

For one of our clients, an organization that is seeking to change the education landscape by supporting Black education leaders across the country, we began by researching influential historical figures who were groundbreaking educators and philanthropists in their day. We soon came across three early pioneers in Black education, Mary McLeod Bethune, Nannie Helen Burroughs and Charlotte Hawkins Brown and the donor club was named The 3B Council in their honor. 

The three trailblazing women dedicated their lives to uplifting African American youth in the late 19th and early 20th Century, at a time when access to quality education in the south was limited.  A century later, donors who support the organization can continue to draw inspiration from their names and their stories.  

The 3B Society was officially launched by Earvin “Magic” Johnson at the organization’s first annual event.  While not everyone can have an iconic sports figure inaugurate their donor club, the club in of itself is a powerful tool! 

For another client, a synagogue in the suburbs north of Chicago, they were looking to build a club made up of donors who would lead by example and imbue energy and excitement into their capital campaign, broadening its appeal and galvanizing participation among the wider congregation.

In keeping with the deep tradition of their Jewish ancestors and the founders of the synagogue, the name Heritage Council was chosen. We included a quote from a prominent Rabbi to drive home the importance of leadership as a team endeavor. 

“When Yitro sees his son-in-law Moses leading alone and says, ‘What you are doing is not good,’ he is saying we cannot live alone. We cannot lead alone. Leadership is teamsmanship.” – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

The Heritage Circle was announced in conjunction with a campaign challenge grant and the members became the early donors to the campaign, hosted campaign informational meetings and helped to cultivate and solicit their fellow congregants.

To establish a donor club that inspires, engage your donors as partners and provide special recognition to make them feel like an integral part of your success. We recommend sending special, personalized email updates, inviting them to an annual thank you event with your board of directors, providing a club description on your website, listing their names in your annual report and including an option to join the club on your pledge card.

Good luck and feel free to reach out with any questions about building or enhancing your donor club!