Institute on Religion and
Public Life

Your best donor prospect is someone who has already given to you—which is why building relationships with your donors is so crucial. Successful nonprofits retain and upgrade their donors by finding out what their donor's goals are, and asking how they can partner together to achieve them. They incorporate them into the life of the organization through personal meetings, events, and special activities. They communicate with their donors frequently—and not only when they wish to solicit them. And they engage their enthusiastic support through meaningful giving clubs, among other means.


Thanks to a charismatic founder—Father Richard John Neuhaus—and a wildly successful flagship publication (First Things magazine), the Institute on Religion and Public Life (IRPL) had by 2011 built a solid base of small and major individual and foundation donors since its founding in 1990. However, the organization did not have a system for retaining and upgrading its donors. When its board of directors realized that such a system was necessary, it engaged American Philanthropic to help.

Working closely with the IRPL board and executive director, American Philanthropic worked with IRPL to put in place tactics for cultivating current major donors and foundation supporters. We helped to write grant proposals, letters of inquiry, and meeting requests. We researched IRPL's major donors, providing the board and executive director with information that they could use in determining which donors to prioritize and how to approach them. And we designed and managed the production of a new annual report.

Most importantly, American Philanthropic helped IRPL launch and manage a new major-donor club called the Editor’s Circle. Open to donors who give $1,000 or more annually, the Editor’s Circle has been a smashing success. It has focused IRPL’s attention on this vitally important constituency and has served as an appealing giving incentive. After the Editor’s Circle second full year of operation, total giving from $1,000+ donors had doubled.


  • Development-program audit.
  • Messaging development.
  • Donor club strategies and management.
  • Grant writing and proposal creation.
  • Customized donor prospect research.
  • High-dollar solicitation packages.
  • Annual reports, prospectuses, brochures, and other collateral material.