Connecting with Principal Gift Donors During COVID-19

The University of Missouri is bringing small groups of major donors together — virtually — to help donors to connect to each other and Mizzou. We talked with Kevin Heyen, Senior Executive Director of Principal Gifts & Campaign Manager — virtually of course — on how they’re approaching these discussions.

Small group connections that benefit everybody

Using virtual “salons” or small-group Zoom meetings, the team at Mizzou is bringing together existing and potential principal gift donors in a meaningful way. These discussions include university leadership and bring a highly selective group of four to six people together to ask questions, offer advice, and meet each other.

By connecting constituents that have never met, but share interests, Kevin’s team is helping donors form powerful connections with their peers and brainstorm creative ways to support the institution. 

These groups can double as a way to influence new potential donors, too. Kevin and the team will extend invitations to the salons to newer prospects who haven’t yet made a principal gift. It’s a way to continue engaging these alumni and qualifying their interests in the age of COVID-19.

Inviting this person to join a virtual meeting of their peers is a way to deepen the relationship and can inspire prospects to get more involved with the university. After all, what’s better than a group of passionate and enthusiastic peers trying to support something you love, too? 


It’s a two-way street. 

So you want to bring together donors in small group meetings. Make sure they get something out of it too. When done right, these salons can serve as an outlet for intellectual stimulation, a chance to connect with campus leadership, or an opportunity for donors to share their economic and business expertise with the university. 

Whatever you do, knock with your feet. 

Looking to 2021…

Mizzou is wrapping up a successful capital campaign next month and moving into a non-campaign year. Given the current economic environment, the team is approaching the next fiscal year with a focus on cultivation and relationship building. Sharing gift impact and stewarding donors will serve to build lasting relationships with constituents in the years (and campaigns) to come. 

Looking for more? 

We talked about re-opening the advancement economy with three leaders from the University of Virginia and talked to UConn Health for tips for frontline fundraisers asking for health sciences gifts for the first time. 


Here are all the resources we’ve gathered for fundraising and engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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