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Over the past several weeks we’ve explored the four stages of the Donor Journey. We saw how in Stage 1 we build awareness, how exploration occurs in Stage 2, and how Stage 3 is the time for expansion. The ultimate stage is donor fusion, in which donors have fused their personal identities with the organization and would agree with statements such as “When Habitat for Humanity is strong, I am strong.”

When a donor gives money in this stage we don’t view it as a loss or an investment, but as a time where the relationship becomes more powerful and the donor becomes deeply connected to the cause. Did you know that a donor begins to care genuinely about an organization after five meaningful gifts?

So what can we do to stoke that genuine care?

1. De-emphasize the charity as the middleman between the donor and the beneficiaries. In the language you use it’s critical to connect the donor with the cause he or she is passionate about.

2. Thank donors in a way that celebrates your shared success. For example, “You made Christian Aid stronger today, watch the video and feel the power of your gift.” It’s more like the ‘pat-on-the-back’ one football fan offers another once they have won a game.

3. Inspire donors in this stage by finding creative ways to reinforce the communal relationship. Whether it’s a personal note, a video or a gift, think outside the box as you consider ways to reinforce the connection.

As we’ve seen over the last several weeks of studying the Donor Journey, relationship fundraising is a long game. That immediate, transactional approach to fundraising can feel good initially when we get that donation but we need to remember that each donation represents a donor. Stoking that relationship long term is critical for seeing a long-term return. To learn more about the donor journey and get quick tips for implementing these strategies, download the Relationship Fundraising Pocket Guide.