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This month’s Fundraising Strategies & Nonprofit Tech Carnival is all about one thing: major gifts.

At DonorSearch, we’ve written extensively about major gift fundraising and the various elements that go into the entire process, from prospect identification all the way through to post-gift stewardship and ongoing retention. 

But, you can never learn too much about the major gift process; it is just that important.

As we explain in our guide on the topic:

Studies have shown that, on average, over 88% of all funds come from just 12% of donors. That 12% constitutes the donations from your major gift contributors. Given their respective impact on your fundraising total, it’s clear to see why having a robust major giving program should be a priority.

So, we put out a call to the community of nonprofit experts looking for the best advice we could find to help nonprofits of all shapes and sizes improve their major gift efforts.

And here’s what you had to say!

Following the lead of the preceding carnival host (check out last month’s Annual Fund Development Carnival here), we’ve divided the contributions into categories to help direct you to the advice that is most relevant to your needs.

Click on the links below to jump straight to the major gift tips and strategies you’re looking for:

Scroll down to read about all of the included resources. (And don’t forget to subscribe to the carnival newsletter to find out how you can get involved!)

General Major Gift Fundraising Best Practices and Strategies

1. Major Gifts: 12+ Actionable (And Effective Strategies)

We’ve already linked to and quoted this guide earlier in the article, but for those who skipped right to the resource list, this guide explores major giving inside and out. It starts with the basics, moves on to how you can start a program yourself, and finishes with advice for improving your efforts.

Click here to check out the DonorSearch resource on major gifts.

2. Nonprofit Fundraising: The Ultimate Guide

This Double the Donation resource features comprehensive coverage of the entire practice of fundraising, and it has a helpful section that highlights major giving.

A particularly salient segment offers a great piece of advice for major-gift-seeking nonprofits:

Practice your pitch. You never want to go into a major gift meeting unprepared. In order to have the greatest success, you’ll need to practice your pitch and the different scenarios that could play out during the meeting.

Get the rest of the details from the Double the Donation contribution by clicking here.

3. Raising More from Major Gifts: 16 Innovative Strategies

This list of strategies from NeonCRM is chock-full of great advice, so we’ll jump straight into one of the 16 tips. Tip #3 encourages nonprofits to look to their annual funds for prospective donors.

As is explained in the section:

If you can find a loyal donor who has major gift potential, the cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship phases of major giving will be far easier. Past giving is the greatest indicator of future giving, so you should begin your search within your own database.

For more on tip #3 and the rest of the innovative strategies, check out the Neon resource.

4. Identifying Major Donors Across Annual Fundraising Events

Since the last excerpt focused on the potential of annual fund donors, it’s only fitting that the next resource we feature is about leveraging annual fundraising events to identify new major donors.

The article includes actionable instructions for identifying major donors at fun runs and walkathons, golf tournaments, and fundraising galas.

Launching and Managing a Major Gift Program

5. 3 Steps to Launch a Major Gifts Initiative

Launching a major gift initiative can be an intimidating undertaking for a newer and/or smaller nonprofit, but the right strategy for implementation can make all the difference.

For such assistance, look no further than this article from Diana V. Hoyt of MatchMaker Fundraising Software. Working from an example with concrete numbers, Hoyt walks the reader through exactly how they could go about launching a major gifts program by using existing donor data.

Click here to read through the complete process from the MatchMaker Fundraising Software article.

6. Identifying Major Donors: 10 Top Strategies and Tools

The first step in any successful major gift effort is going to be identifying the donors your organization plans to cultivate.

BidPal has put together a resource that will help you hone your major gift prospect identification skills. For example, one of the 10 detailed strategies is all about hiring a major gifts officer (MGO), explaining:

Experts in the field can do the major legwork with more expertise and finesse than the average person…Hiring a major gift officer will prevent you from splitting time that could be used to keep your organization running. 

Read the complete resource from BidPal for the remaining strategies and tools.

7. You Hired a Major Gift Officer, Now What?

In this insightful article from Sarah Andrews of Averill Fundraising Solutions, you can learn all about best practices for onboarding and managing your program’s newly minted major gift officer.

Sarah aptly describes why proper onboarding and management are needed in the introduction of the article:

Creating the right onboarding program will set the stage for a long-term, healthy relationship with your new major gift officer, and in turn, will strengthen your donor base. 

Learn what goes into a good MGO onboarding program by reading the article from Averill Fundraising Solutions.

Major Giving Metrics and Measurements

8. Fundraising Thermometers: A Powerful Tool (That Works)

Sometimes a donor needs a visual cue to give them the full picture of the impact of their gift. Fundraising thermometers can be that cue, even for major gift donors.

According to this @Pay resource:

If your donors know what they’re working toward, they’ll be much more inclined to help out. Setting a realistic goal that your donors can clearly see will help them to visualize their own impact on your cause. 

For more about the specific impact a fundraising thermometer can have, head over to the @Pay page.

9. 4 Major Gift Metrics Nonprofits Need to Track

Like with any fundraising effort, strong major giving programs track their performance so they can find areas of weakness and improve.

This article from Salsa can give your organization a starting point when it comes to metrics, advising that you analyze the following:

  1. Asks made
  2. Face-to-face visits per month/quarter/year
  3. Amount raised
  4. % of Prospects in Each Stage of the Donor Pipeline

Learn why each metric is important and how you can track it by reading the original article from Salsa.

Retaining and Stewarding Major Donors

10. Donor Thank-You Letters: 25 Terrific Tips!

Proper acknowledgment is a critical step on the path from one-time donor to lifelong donor. Your major gift donors are incredibly generous and deserve to be thanked accordingly.

And this list of tips for crafting donor thank-you letters is the perfect way to take your acknowledgements to the next level and keep donors engaged for years to come. 

No matter your experience level when it comes to crafting thank-you letters, you’ll find something of value among this actionable list.

Read about all 25 tips by visiting the resource from Qgiv now.

11. A Nifty Guide to Donor Segmentation

If you’re going to truly steward your major donors effectively, you have to give them personalized attention.

The best way to ensure that you’re communicating through the best channels and offering the right types of future engagement opportunities is to segment your donor population.

This article contributed by Fundly will walk you through the entire donor segmentation process. As they write:

Grouping similar donors together will take time, but the hard work should pay off, as donor segmentation can help with the organization of fundraising materials, specificity of communications with donors, and how much it will cost to cultivate any given prospect. 

Get advice for all aspects of donor segmentation by clicking here and visiting the Fundly article.

12. Do’s and Don’ts of Building Donor Trust

With any donor, but especially with major donors, you won’t get anywhere if you can’t build trust. Donors contributing significant donations to your nonprofit have to be confident in your organization and certain that their donations are in the right hands.

iATS Payments’ article covers the numerous steps you can take to ensure that your major gift donors trust in your nonprofit and your ability to handle their funds.

The four do’s and don’ts they highlight are:

  • Don’t push,
  • Do show respect,
  • Don’t hide,
  • And do be transparent.

To get the background and actionable instruction for each of those do’s and don’ts, click here.

13. The Heart of Effective Major Donor Development: It’s Not Money

And last, but certainly not least, we finish this carnival with sage advice from Claire Axelrad of Clairification.

In her article, Axelrad explains that major donor development is about demonstrating impact, stating:

Once the gift is made, your job is to show your donor the impact their gift made. To demonstrate gratitude for that impact. To show them again so they’re reminded of the benefits of their investment. To thank them again so they feel truly appreciated.

Then, when you think your donor is filled to the brim with the joy of giving and is ready to re-enact their passion, you show them a way they can do it all over again.

For the complete discussion, read her entire article on Clairification.


There you have it — 13 resources to answer a multitude of your major gift questions!

For even more from the carnival:

Thanks for reading!

Major Gift Fundraising: 13 Expert Tips (Nonprofit Tech Carnival)