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November 2022

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because irrespective of our beliefs, we all come together on the same day to give thanks for the blessings in our lives.  As nonprofit professionals whose work depends upon the generosity of others, it is especially important to thank our donors. We hope the ideas below will prove useful all year long.
I am particularly grateful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I have to serve our client the Greater Washington Community Foundation as Interim Managing Director, Development.  It’s exciting to work with one of the largest philanthropic leaders in our region to realize their strategic vision of closing the racial wealth gap in the Greater Washington region.   
With special thanks to all our treasured clients at Capacity Partners. 

Mary RobinsonCapacity Partners President & Founder

The Ties That Bind:
Stronger Through Stewardship

A plunge in small donor giving is worrying nonprofit organizations (see this recent article). While COVID giving was fairly robust, the economic impact of a near-recession seems to be causing a measurable drag on small donor donations. Are you concerned about the giving of your small donors this season? 

There are many strategies to attract and retain these donors, such as offering a “set it and forget it” monthly donation option. But while small donor support is important, ensuring strong donor relationships overall will strengthen the financial health of your organization. The time is always right to beef up stewardship efforts for donors, with some tailoring based on whether they are large or small. 

It doesn’t necessarily require grand gestures. Success is about making your supporters feel valued and acknowledged so they keep giving.

Here are some ideas from the Capacity Partners consultant team.

For donors, both small and large:
  1. Create low-cost, high-engagement events – tours of programs or “open house” visits (depending on the nature of your mission or service delivery)

  2. Hold a town hall as a state-of-the-organization/get to know us (zoom or in person) session; share compelling stories and provide lots of time for questions

  3. Initiate a handwritten thank you note/phone call campaign
  4. Send out a thank you mailing with a sticker or other low-cost promo/swag
  5. Send out short and sweet regular update emails/newsletters. Feature a donor thank you component (perhaps once a year, list all small donors)

Maintaining a personal connection -- and not just when a donation shows up - can make a huge difference. It can be low-budget while still making a positive impact. Be in touch all the time.
  • Have your board reach out to donors around holidays, with messaging that connects to the day or season (gratitude at Thanksgiving; around Valentine's Day, send cards with related sentiments, such as "You are the heart of our organization"). Send fun musical ecards for special occasions.
  • Touch base with donors periodically and consistently for no particular reason and don't ask for anything; record good notes about their relatives, interests, and pets so that your future conversations can sincerely focus on them.
  • Be a connector – a resource who links people with common interests or needs – because you’ve gotten to know someone so well. Use your connections to share with other people. People appreciate it.

For many nonprofits, in the end a significant percent of total giving comes from large donors. So be sure to keep them at the top of your priority list. Here are some tactics:

  • Create a newsletter for "insiders" that provides insights from your leader, a special story about the impact donors have made on an individual client, or shares organization good news such as special recognition or a new partnership, that will be shared with a more general audience later.
  • Schedule coffee visits with your top donors. Ask them if they feel comfortable with an in-person meeting or schedule a virtual coffee. The purpose is to learn why they give, which could be turned into an on-line campaign (see #4) or a profile piece in the newsletter.
  • Single out long-term donors (designating them as Champions/Advocates or some other named distinction) at your next event with an inexpensive pin and recognition from the stage. Be sure to let this group know in advance they will be recognized.
  • Create an on-line campaign to profile donors weekly or twice monthly. Have a quick interview on why they support the organization (and consider short videos as an option).

Nonprofits that don't have a Development Director sometimes think that a donor interaction is speaking with a donor at a program or seeing someone at a program and waving to them across a room. Yes, you should note in your database all donor (and nondonor) participation in your programs.

But more importantly, seek out regular attendees and those you suspect may have special interest in your work for more personal attention when you chat about their interests in your work and what's on tap going forward. These are the interactions that lead to larger gifts.

'Tis the season for year-end campaigns.
Get our advice on tuning up your approach.
Read More


Capacity Partners is working with our clients
on these projects:



African American Resources Cultural and Heritage Society:
Development Planning


Affiliated Sante Group:
Operational Review


Avalon Theatre:
Interim Development Staffing

Capitol Hill Business Improvement District:
Board Retreat

Cura Personalis Project:
Development Audit

Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture:
Board Retreat


Golden Triangle Business Improvement District:
Board Retreat

Greater Washington Community Foundation:
Interim Managing Director of Development

Kolot HaLev Choir:
Strategic Planning Consulting

Our Minds Matter:
Grants Consulting

Potomac Riverkeeper Network:
Strategic Planning

Southern Maryland Community Network:
Grant Writing

Willowsford HOA:
Strategic Planning


Follow us to keep up with what we are up to:


Capacity Partners offers a full range of strategic and development services via consulting, interim staffing, facilitation, coaching, and on-site project management.

Strategic Plans
Implementation Plans
Business Plans
Organizational Assessments
Meeting Facilitation


Capital Campaigns
Feasibility Studies
Major Gifts and Wealth Screening
Grant Writing and Prospect Research
Comprehensive Development Planning

Board Training 
Governance Structure
Board Engagement Strategies
Board Assessments
Counsel for Board Chairs


Leadership Coaching
Operational Analysis
Executive Search 
Market Studies
Marketing/Communications Strategy
Nonprofit Management Assistance



Capacity Partners is a consulting firm based in Bethesda, MD, dedicated to strengthening the impact of nonprofits. We blend best practices and original thinking to guide nonprofits to achieve transformative results.

Mary Robinson
President & Founder

Laura Apelbaum
Jeanine Cogan

Louise Stoner Crawford
Siobhan Davenport
Kristen Engebretsen
Michael Feinstein
Charlotte Garvey
Debra Liverpool

Steve Longley
Koranee Peppe
Margo Reid
Joan Schaffer
Amy Selco
Daniel Wacker
Sara Watkins
Barbara Wille

Our commitment to DEI is inseparable from who we are and what we do. To that end, we incorporate DEI principles into our approach to strategic planning, fundraising, and board development to best meet the needs of our clients. We are committed to promoting racial equity and justice, and proactively advancing diversity and inclusion in our sector, with our clients, and within our firm.
Copyright © 2022 Capacity Partners, Inc., All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Capacity Partners, Inc.
4701 Sangamore Road, Suite S150
Bethesda, MD 20816

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