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The Moves Management Guide

We know that attracting and retaining donors takes consistent outreach and stewardship. Encouraging those donors to give at higher levels? Now that takes all that and some detailed strategic planning. Check out our complete guide to learn everything you need to know about moves management.

Moves management — it’s the secret to cultivating lasting donor relationships that grow over time. 

A well-developed moves management program can provide a robust foundation for your major gift cultivation strategy along with your donor development.

In this essential guide, we’ll be covering all the basics, including what are donor moves, how does the process work, and how you can implement your strategy using your nonprofit software. 

For easy access, we’ve linked all of the sections below, so you can find exactly what you’re looking for:

Section 1

Moves Management Definitions

Moves management is the process of identifying and classifying your constituents or donors in an attempt to “move” them along to a higher level of giving or engagement. Parts of the process have also been defined as donor stewardship or strategic nonprofit communication.

Two characters talking
Two characters talking

What Are Moves?

The “moves” in moves management are the activities or actions that your nonprofit or organization uses to collect new donors and create long-lasting donor relationships. These are both cultivation activities and proof of deeper forms of engagement.

What Are Examples of Moves?

Cultivation “moves” can be a variety of things. Some examples include giving access for a supporter to tour your nonprofit’s office, providing volunteer opportunities at your organization, or inviting a supporter to a virtual or in-person event that you are hosting for your organization. These examples show an action-based relationship approach to gathering new fundraisers or fostering closer relationships with donors.

Your moves can be small, or you larger strategies to develop relationships with community connections to support your cultivation moves with combined events or volunteer opportunities. Moves can also include sending an email or a letter to reach out to your supporters.

But, wait! Moves aren’t just about gathering new donors. Moves can also be applied to one-time donors that you want to become monthly or recurring donors. There are many different strategies for one-time donors, including a nonprofit email or direct-mail campaign, a lunch invitation with your CEO or program staff, or a more simple email ask

As you can see, most nonprofits already have moves incorporated into their fundraising process, so let’s define this process a bit more.

What is the Moves or Donor Management Process?

Many nonprofits have a donor management program that identifies and classifies their constituents and then attempts to “move” them to a higher giving or engagement level. The process of keeping an eye on these activities is known as moves management.

Throughout this process, nonprofits will typically: 

  • Attach unique activities to their prospects and donors in an attempt to better understand and individually classify them.
  • Build strategic, healthy, and interactive relationships to promote consistent engagement between these individuals and their organization.
  • Accelerate constituents through a custom engagement pipeline relevant to their level of donorship to continuously generate donations.

Understanding gift and donor life cycles

The goal is to bring in donors and encourage donors to continuously give, nurturing prospects until they (hopefully!) move up donor levels. 

Whether you’re a small organization with limited resources or a larger organization with advanced research analytic capabilities, the critical elements for a successful moves program are the same:

  • Donor Levels: Knowing where a donor “is” before the donor can be “moved.”
    For Example: subscriber, occasional giver, sustainer

  • Action Plans: Developing an action plan to move constituents at each donor level.
    For Example: call donors who attended your last event

  • Measurements: Quantitatively measuring the results of the action plans.
    For Example: percentage of donors who responded to a solicitation email

  • Refactoring Process: Analyzing the measurements and making adjustments to the action plans based on said analysis. The best organizations refactor constantly.
    For Example: Decide to do thank you calls to donors who gave more than $100 instead of sending letters, based on last quarter’s response rate

Section 2

The Six Steps of Moves Management

A moves or donor management process can be called many things — major donor prospecting, donor cultivation, or even targeted donor stewardship.

No matter what you call it, the processes are likely similar. You segment your constituents, choose your approach, and monitor for results that will inform future efforts.

Here’s the process in six steps.

Neon One graphics of "One" characters
Neon One graphics of "One" characters

Step 1: Pick A Target Audience

Attempting to roll out several unique strategies all at once is 1) confusing and 2) extremely tough to manage. That’s why, when it comes to developing your moves management process, it’s best to take things one giving level at a time. 

To figure out which target audience to start with, analyze your existing constituent base and identify people who have recently jumped from one giving level to another. Identifying major gift donors is only one part of the process. It’s also essential to move your one-time donors forward into monthly or recurring donors.

Accurate donor prospecting information is a vital tool. Looking at your historical donor data will give you a good idea of where big wins can potentially be made. 

Organizations spend too much time and money on information that is not accurate and will not help them build relationships. That’s why we suggest using wealth screening to focus on the data from donors themselves.

For example, suppose you notice that recurring donors make a significant impact on your total annual donations. In that case, you’ll probably want to create a plan around “moving” occasional donors into that specific giving tier. 

Once you’ve successfully implemented your first moves effort, you can look into other key “move” opportunities and layer the strategies from there. 

Takeaway: Take things one step at a time. Figure out which “move” will make the biggest impact on your bottom line, and focus on developing a strategy around that giving level.

Step 2: Determine Your Ask

Now that you’ve identified who you want to move, it’s time to craft your appeal. 

To do so effectively, you’ll want to take a look at common threads between members of your target audience. Look at information like:

  • How much they usually give
  • How often they typically give
  • Previous event attendance
  • Previous volunteer registrations

Use your findings to develop a donor persona for your “move” group. Use this information to develop a reasonable ask for your appeal. 

Takeaway: Don’t determine your ask blindly! Develop your appeal strategy based on how your target audience typically interacts with your organization.

Step 3: Set Your Goal(s)

What do you want your appeal to ultimately achieve? Maybe you’d like to reach the desired gift amount from a major donor? Or convert a percentage of donors to monthly giving?

Once you know what results you’d like to see come out of your donor engagement program, you can build a SMART goal around it.

A SMART goal is a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Adopting this framework for goal setting will help you zero in on what matters most.

When you’re in the depths of implementing a strategy, the clarity that a SMART goal provides is crucial.

Takeaway: Make sure the goal of your moves process is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

Step 4: Create Your Plan

Use your goal to build out a strategy that will inform specific donor outreach activities. Your team will carry out these activities in order to push your moves process along. 

These targeted moves will largely differ based on your goal. For example, the activities planned for recurring donors will probably look much different from activities planned for prospects. 

You may want to designate a member of your development or fundraising team to be in charge of managing activities that relate to your moves management process. Having one point of contact for all marching orders will prevent embarrassing mistakes like sending the same event invite twice or missing a follow-up. 

Takeaway: Develop a strategy to carry out your goal, and pick a team member to be the point person for the project. This will prevent needless confusion down the line.

Step 5: Ask And Record

Now’s the time to act on your strategy. Making your ask can go several ways, depending on the move that your organization has decided to focus on. 

For example, if you’re trying to convert a pool of prospects into donors, that can be done by either a direct mail or email campaign. However, if you’re trying to gain a major donor, you’re going to want to ensure that it’s made by someone the candidate knows, within an appropriate setting and personally. 

To track your progress, document all interactions and donor activity on your nonprofit CRM or spreadsheet. 

Takeaway: Once you’ve made an ask, record your results in your CRM system or spreadsheet so you can keep an eye on your progress.

Step 6: Refine & Refactor for Long-Term Success

Once effective action plans are developed, too many organizations stop refactoring because they believe that they have found the donor engagement plan that works for them – as they say,  “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

This is understandable, but refactoring doesn’t need to be a complete change. We advise making a 10% change even if you believe your current course of action is effective and a 30% change when you’re looking for big improvements.  

What does a 10% change look like? Making a minor tweak at a given donor level, then measuring and analyzing the results.

This process is known as refactoring. It can also be seen as continuous improvement or continuous experimentation. No matter what, making meaningful connections with your prospects should be the ultimate goal of any moves program.

Schedule a follow-up meeting with your team to cover what worked, what didn’t, and how you can strengthen your moves plan to meet your strategic goals. 

This meeting can take place at the end of the year, quarter, or wherever you see fit, just as long as you use it as an opportunity to reflect on your data and generate some effective next steps for your candidates. Be sure to look at: 

  • Specifics on prospect identification
  • Fundamental donor information such as name and current gift amount
  • Donor interests and inclinations
  • Advancement techniques
  • Successful actions taken that lead to further engagement 

Takeaway: Fine-tune your process by scheduling a recurring meeting with your team so you can go over what’s working and what needs improvements.

Section 3

Connecting with Donors at Every Stage of Moves & Donor Management

Developing targeted communication strategies for each level of your donor pipeline is the foundation of a successful moves or donor engagement program. Encourage your donors to move to the next level with these tips.

Moves Management Pyramid
Moves Management Pyramid

Major Donors

Retain major donors by writing handwritten thank you notes — make sure there’s a wet signature! Personalize the message to include details about their last interaction with your organization.

Recurring Donors

Focus on explaining their impact. Send each recurring donor a personalized email that showcases the good you’re able to do with their help. Bonus points if that impact is quantifiable!

One-Time Donors

Recapture one-time donors by creating content that drives further investment in your organization. Send a series of emails that spotlight your constituents & explain how they’ve been able to benefit from your services.


Invite prospects to participate in a volunteer opportunity or attend an event. This will give them a chance to develop a connection to your organization and set the foundation for a long-lasting relationship.

Section 4

Moves Metrics

There has been a lot of change in technology over the years to change the approach for moves management. Some of the changes include more efficient prospect research, readily available information, and better donor management.

Donor Retention Rate Formula
Donor Retention Rate Formula

These changes have brought about a lot of different ways that you can find, reach out to, and connect with donors, as well as measure the return on investment.

This leads us to the question, are we really measuring the right thing when it comes to donor engagment? How are you tracking “moves” for prospects or donors?

Tracking the activity of the donor is essential to maintaining a more personal relationship rather than the typical traditional fundraising campaign ask. Remember to segment your donors to be sure that you are communicating with them in ways that make sense to where they are at in the process.

You can track all your interactions and donor moves in your nonprofit’s CRM. If you don’t have a nonprofit CRM, you can also use a spreadsheet to track interactions.

Donor Retention Metrics

Sometimes the best way to get donations is to retain donors rather than cultivate new donors. But before you can start to improve donor retention, you need to learn how to calculate donor retention. 

The donor retention rate formula is (# of last year donors giving this year / # of donors last year) x 100 = donor retention %

A donor retention plan is even more critical for first-time donors than your other repeat donors.

Research shows that after the first gift, donor retention is only 23% compared to 60% after the second gift. Be sure you have a strategy in place to lock in that second gift as soon as possible.

Major Gift Metrics

Measuring outcomes is one way to start collecting the necessary data. You can measure outcomes or expected outcomes for current donors with the following criteria:

  • Portfolio Opportunities Ratio: The ratio of a donor’s most significant gift compared to their capacity rating.
  • Portfolio Conversation Ratio: The percentage of the portfolio that commits to major gifts over a set time period, usually a year. 
  • Solicitation Yield Rate: The ratio of ask amounts to commitment amounts.
  • Annual (Regular) Gift Retention Rate: The percentage of the portfolio who gave annual gifts last year and gave again this year.
  • Total Donation Amount Committed: Use the data above to calculate the expected return for each donor or household.

Using the data to develop your communication and moves strategy and check back to these measurements and outcomes along that way to make sure your strategy is helping you match the expected return. 

Remember to check back in with your donors to understand their experience with your organization better. Your strategy and communications should always keep in mind the feelings and opinions of your donors to keep them coming back.

Learn More About Moves Metrics for Major Donors

“Moves” Outcome Metrics

Every organization is different, so it’s essential to start with the areas that make the most sense for your nonprofit. And where can you find those? The answer lies in your data.

For example, most volunteers tend to be bigger givers than non-volunteers. So volunteering may be a “driver” for donations in your organization. Analyze your data to see if that’s true. If it is, then work on an action plan to encourage more volunteerism.

Often the best way to identify drivers is to identify people who have recently moved from one level to another and ask them what drove them to “move” to the next level. This can be done a few different ways (online survey, asking via email, etc.), but when working with someone who recently became a major donor, we recommend asking during your ‘thank you’ call.

When you have gathered enough data on what is driving your donors to give more, you can use that information to build out your moves management strategy further.

Remember to check back in with your donors to understand their experience with your organization better. Your strategy and communications should always keep in mind the feelings and opinions of your donors to keep them coming back.

Section 5

Moves & Donor Management Software for Nonprofits

There are a variety of software solutions to support your moves management efforts as a nonprofit. Included in possible software solutions are a nonprofit CRM, a payment processor, alternative donation options, and wealth screening tools.

Let’s walk through each of these options.

Neon CRM's example for moves management
Neon CRM’s example for moves management

Nonprofit CRM

The first type of software you should look into if you are considering improving your donor engagment is a nonprofit CRM software solution.

A CRM or a suitable donor database should be customizable enough to track all aspects of your moves management process, from donation form set up to donor stewardship. 

Set yourself up for CRM success by ensuring you’re tracking the information that matters most. You can do this by tailoring each of your online forms to ask the questions that matter most for your organization. Be sure you are syncing those forms to your CRM or donor database.

For example, if you work with an animal welfare nonprofit, you may want to ask whether donors prefer dogs or cats on your newsletter sign-up form. 

That simple question could help you develop targeted communications for both dog people and cat people. Special touches like that are what really incentivize prospects to give.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a nonprofit software solution to support your moves process, be sure to ask whether each option can be customized to fit your exact needs. After all, your software should work for you — not the other way around.  

Neon CRM is designed to support and foster lasting relationships

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Payment & Donation Solutions

Within the Neon CRM system, a nonprofit could implement the following integrations that use the CRM’s certification program as a standard data configuration to address the following:

Alternative Donations Options: Cryptocurrency

Another way you can expand your fundraising reach and move donors to higher levels, consider offering different giving options, such as cryptocurrency. 

According to The Giving Block, a Neon One certified integration, “When donating crypto, You receive a tax deduction for the fair market value of the crypto, and you avoid the capital gains tax you would have incurred if you had sold the crypto and then made a donation. That means you’re able to donate more, as well as deduct more on your tax return.”

Learn More About Utilizing The Giving Block + Neon CRM

Wealth Screening

Accurate donor information is something many nonprofits struggle with as part of their moves management strategy. One way to solve for this struggle is wealth screening.

Wealth screening looks at the financial indicators of a donor’s giving potential.

Accurate donor prospecting information is a helpful way to focus your energy on developing relationships with key donors. Wealth screening with options such as Windfall Data gives you the ability to do so easily.

Organizations utilizing Windfall’s tools typically measure accuracy that is 50%+ higher than other tools. On average, Windfall users see a 30% lift from their matched affluent donor cohort a year after implementation.

If you put that data to action, that would be $1MM raised last year, translating to $1.3MM a year later, when fundraisers are armed with the right data.

Get Started With Windfall & Neon CRM

This might seem like a hefty lift, but it can become quite manageable with the help of some strategic planning. Once that’s ready to go, the rest is just tracking, adjusting, and improving from the foundation you’ve built.

Neon CRM is designed to support and foster lasting relationships.

Connect with us today to learn how Neon CRM can support your growth.

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