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  • Writer's pictureKeys Marketing Group

Donor Journey: from Prospect to Legacy Donor

As a nonprofit organization, your donors are the lifeblood of your mission. Without their support, your organization would not be able to make the impact you strive for. But how do you turn a prospect into a loyal supporter and even a legacy donor? It all starts with understanding the donor journey and the steps involved in building a lasting relationship with your donors.

Step 1: Identification and Research

The first step in the donor journey is identifying and researching potential donors. This includes analyzing your existing donor database and identifying prospects who have the capacity and inclination to support your organization. This could involve screening tools like wealth screenings or identifying potential donors through your organization's network.

Once you have identified potential donors, it's important to research them thoroughly to learn more about their interests, giving history, and philanthropic priorities. This can be done through prospect research, which involves gathering information from a variety of sources, including public records, social media, and personal connections.

Step 2: Cultivation

The cultivation stage is all about building a relationship with your prospects and engaging them in your organization's mission. This involves reaching out to them with personalized messaging and communications, inviting them to events, and involving them in volunteer opportunities.

Cultivation is a critical stage in the donor journey because it sets the tone for the rest of the relationship. This is the time to show your prospects that you value their support and are committed to building a long-term relationship with them.

Step 3: Solicitation

Once you have established a relationship with your prospects and they have shown interest in your organization, it's time to make the ask. This can take many forms, from a direct mail campaign, telefundraising to a face-to-face meeting.

The key to successful solicitation is understanding what motivates your donors to give and tailoring your ask to their interests and priorities. This requires ongoing communication and engagement to ensure that you are aware of their changing needs and interests.

Step 4: Stewardship

Stewardship is the ongoing process of thanking and recognizing your donors for their support. This involves communicating the impact of their gift, providing regular updates on your organization's work, and involving them in opportunities to see the impact of their support first-hand.

Effective stewardship is critical to building long-term relationships with your donors and inspiring continued support. It's important to remember that stewardship is not a one-time event but an ongoing process that requires ongoing engagement and communication.

Step 5: Legacy Giving

Legacy giving involves leaving a gift to your organization in your will or estate plan. This is the ultimate act of commitment and loyalty from a donor and can provide significant support for your organization's long-term sustainability.

Legacy giving can be a sensitive topic, and it's important to approach it with sensitivity and care. This involves building trust with your donors over time, providing them with information about the benefits of legacy giving, and ensuring that the process is clear and transparent.


The donor journey is a complex process that involves many steps, from identifying and researching prospects to cultivating relationships, making the ask, and stewardship. By understanding each stage of the journey and tailoring your communications and engagement to your donors' needs and interests, you can build long-term relationships that inspire continued support and even legacy giving.

Remember that the donor journey is not a one-time event but an ongoing process that requires ongoing engagement and communication. By investing in your relationships with your donors, you can build a community of loyal supporters who are committed to your mission and vision for the future.


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