How do you plan, monitor, and track interactions with major donors? For many, putting a good structure and process in place to manage these important relationships is a challenge.

I found the process outlined below, which combines some traditional and modern elements, has worked well for me.

First, I created my own donor profile template. At the time, our donor management software did not have a sufficient format for organizing and displaying specific donor information. Today, many include useful tools to build donor profiles. Make sure you’re familiar with the format and options your software provides.

Next, I built a list of 25 donors and donor prospects. This list was based on a combination of factors: lifetime giving, length of giving, volunteer involvement, and anything else that indicated a strong combination of affinity for our organization and capacity for making large gifts. There’s no magic to the number 25. That’s what we were able to manage effectively. You may be able to do more or less depending on your situation.

I filled out a donor profile (electronically) for each of the 25 donors then printed each one out. With the profiles literally in hand, I spent time planning how each donor would be uniquely engaged with our organization throughout the year.

These profiles would sit in a folder on my desk. Do not put them out of sight or on a shelf. Each time I or someone else from our organization interacted with the donor, I would write the appropriate notes on their sheet.

At the end of each month, I would review each donor profile to ensure I accomplished what I was supposed to and plan for the month ahead. This would generally take a couple of hours. It would also allow me to adjust when something unavoidable disrupted our plans.

When the profile became too messy with handwritten notes, I would summarize, type, and print a clean version of each donor profile and the process would continue. This would typically be every three months.

So, how do you incorporate your donor software into this process?

For me, I would enter information in the database at the end of each month when I was reviewing progress. You may prefer to record notes and interactions immediately and save time on the back end. It’s up to you.

I found handwriting notes and reviewing and planning interactions with donors monthly helped me clarify what needed to be entered and what could be left in my own notes.

Today, I do all my note taking on an iPad. But the same rules and process can still apply with a few modifications.

Most importantly, try something. It won’t be perfect right away. Over time, you’ll tweak and personalize it to fit your work style. Remember, what you’re doing is not only helping you manage relationships, it’s also helping your mission build relationships that will endure.