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Major donors: 3 animal welfare organizations that are getting it right

Animal welfare organizations are going through a transformative time in their fundraising programs. As we’ve pointed out previously, most are increasing their investment in digital marketing, adjusting their messaging to be more community-based, and sharpening their retention efforts. 

There has also been a big focus on building a stronger pipeline for major giving.  

Karla Baldelli recently shared some strategies on how animal welfare organizations can reach new major donor audiences. In this blog post, we’ll highlight a few of our clients who are doing a terrific job in this area.  

Leaning into data and modeling 

The Atlanta Humane Society was looking for a way to grow their Guardians Circle, a society of major donors who give $1,000 or more each year in support of the various programs the organization offers.  

Working together, we adapted our Major Donor Model to fit their needs by profiling their donors. We identified more than 5,000 mid-level donors who were most likely to upgrade to $1,000 or more. From there, we segmented the list up into deciles, ranking their likelihood to give from highest to lowest. 

Once these donors were categorized, the Atlanta Humane Society began to offer upgrade messaging and to strategically communicate with this special group through targeted wellness calls, emails, virtual event invites, direct mail packages and acknowledgment postcards.  

One year later, the revenue from these donors has more than doubled (114% increase). Through a data-driven approach, Atlanta Humane Society now has a more robust major-giving program to fuel their mission to improve animal welfare in the southeastern United States. 

Placing an emphasis on stewardship 

It can be easy to neglect stewardship practices—especially when their impact is difficult to measure on a financial spreadsheet. But when organizations place a strong emphasis on stewardship, it leads to higher retention rates and larger charitable gifts. 

The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region does an outstanding job with their stewardship plan. And they meet donors where they are with authentic gratitude and multiple touchpoints across channels. 

A stewardship coordinator, following and revising their plan as necessary, assigns various members of the staff to call or write notes to mid-level and major donors on a weekly basis. On top of that, they send out videos and impactful stories by email, and their social media accounts are full of rescue stories and adoption successes. 

It’s clear that the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region has made stewardship a part of their organization’s culture and values. The result has been strong retention rates for a dual military population, increasing 10% over a three-year period, and a 14.6% increase in their average gift.   

Additionally, with great communication in place, their major-gifts program has blossomed, helping them complete several successful capital campaigns. 

Tapping into leadership and sponsors 

Last but certainly not least, SPCA of Wake County brings their leadership team into their efforts from the beginning.  

Just like our two previous examples, SPCA of Wake County uses data and modeling to identify new donors with the capacity for greater giving and builds out robust stewardship plans. 

They’ve created a very thoughtful and focused journey for these donors—with invitations to tour the facility, inclusion in donor appreciation/stewardship events, and a chance to meet the CEO.  

The staff has also developed strong relationships within the Raleigh, North Carolina, community. The result is a group of corporate partners that they refer to as “Companies That Care.”  


These are but three of our animal welfare partners across the U.S. that are really honing their efforts to grow their major donor file. Hopefully, these examples will spark an idea that your organization can implement successfully as you plan out your long-term strategies. 

Lisa Rossi

Lisa has decades of experience working with animal welfare organizations. An accomplished fundraising strategist, Lisa helps our clients craft effective strategies that lead to growth and high-value donors.

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