Major gifts are some of the biggest assets to your organization.

What is a Major Gift?

Major gifts are the largest gifts an organization receives. However, what a major gift looks like to your nonprofit will likely depend on the past and average gifts you receive as well as the size of your organization. Some larger organizations consider gifts over $100,000 to be major, while smaller ones consider $2,000 to be a major contribution.

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.

Major gift officers are the top players in your major gift strategy.

What is a Major Gifts Officer?

Major gift officers (MGOs) lead all things major giving for nonprofits and fundraising organizations.

From identification to cultivation to solicitation to stewardship, they lead the process of building relationships with prospects who have the capacity and affinity to contribute a major gift. The role is partly tied to organization size. An MGO at a large nonprofit is likely to be part of a team of officers, whereas a smaller organization might have an existing staff member take on the responsibilities.

Keep in mind that some organizations may not have enough manpower to designate an entire position to an MGO. Instead, either your executive directors or other managers would step in to fulfill the duties of the row until the organization grows larger.

Table of Contents

Basics of Major Gifts and Major Giving

Finding Major Gift Donors

How can you find major gift donors?

How does the major donor identification process work?

In order to increase your major gift revenue, you need to identify possible major gift prospects. Since major gifts make up a large part of overall funds raised, it’s vital that organizations invest time in pinpointing these potential prospects.

A large part of prospect identification requires conducting prospect research by scanning the individuals in an organization’s donor or supporter base.

How does prospect research work with major gift donors?

HOW DOES PROSPECT RESEARCH WORK?

Prospect research is simply a method of determining your potential major donors by screening your entire donor base for certain data points, focusing primarily on wealth markers and philanthropic indicators.

When you screen your donors, a combined examination of wealth markers and philanthropic indicators reveal both a prospect’s financial capacity to make a major contribution and their estimated openness to doing so. Those with both data points are your prospective major donors.

What to Look For in a Major Donor Prospect:

Philanthropic Indicators


Philanthropic indicators speak to a prospect’s inclination towards charitable work and your organization. Logically it makes sense that a donor who has given in the past, has been involved recently and frequently, or has donated large sums over time is highly likely to donate a major gift in the future.

Wealth Markers


Wealth indicators are what people typically think of when they’re considering prime candidates for major giving. Wealth markers are simply signals of someone’s financial capacity to give – just as philanthropic markers are a good indication of a prospect’s willingness to donate to charity.

Consider how past giving can indicate major gift donors.

PAST GIVING

It’s a good idea to look at your supporters’ past giving history (if they have one). Donors who have given between $5k and $10k to a nonprofit before are 5 times more likely to continue donating charitably.

Screening for any real estate ownership can give a clue to your major gift donors.REAL ESTATE OWNERSHIP

A common wealth marker in donors is their real estate ownership. An individual that owns $2+ million worth of real estate is 17 times more likely to give philanthropically than the average person.

Consider how nonprofit involvement can indicate a major gift donor.

NONPROFIT INVOLVEMENT

Determine if any of your supporters are actively involved with yours or other nonprofits. Whether as a foundation trustee, a director, a board member, or as a volunteer, someone who has been directly involved with organizations (especially yours or those of similar missions) is miles ahead of any other prospects on your list.

Stock ownership can help identify major donor prospects.

STOCK OWNERSHIP

Not only can stock ownership give you an idea of a donor’s potential ability to give, but it also means that the donor could possibly make their donation by simply transferring the stock. This adds another way to give and can be more beneficial (if the stock is successful!) in the long run.

Calculating the RFM scores for your supporters can indicate a major gift donor.

RFM SCORE

RFM scores speak to the recency, frequency, and monetary value of the gifts that have been made by a prospect. The more recent, the higher the frequency, and the greater the value of past gifts, the more likely that donor is to be an ideal prospect.

Screen for any past political gifts to indicate who might be your major gift donors.

POLITICAL GIVING

Consider looking at your supporters’ political giving histories. Studies have shown that donors who give over $2,500 in FEC and charitable campaigns are 14 times more likely to contribute to a nonprofit than those who do not. Their track records demonstrate a clear openness to giving.

Cultivating Major Gift Prospects

Cultivation is based on how your major gift officer connects with prospects and learns more about each one. This way, the MGO’s eventual solicitation is more informed and better resonates with prospects.

Get-to-know visit is the first step to cultivating a major gift donor.

GET-TO-KNOW-YOU VISIT

The get-to-know-you visit is one of the most crucial steps in the prospect cultivation phase.

Major giving is a very personal process, and in-person meetings build the foundation for a meaningful relationship with your potential major gift donors. If you can’t have an in-person meeting at this time, consider hosting a video meeting instead!

Set up meetings for your major gift donors to meet your executive director and other leaders in your nonprofit.

MEETING WITH LEADERSHIP

Hosting a dinner or another sort of exclusive meet-and-greet with your executive director is a great way to court and ultimately cultivate major prospects. If you are trying to avoid in-person engagements for effective social distancing, provide ways to meet with leadership virtually, like through video conference!

Ensure your major gift prospects know that leadership is invested in them.

Invite your major gift donors to a vip event!

INVITATION TO A VIP EVENT

Consider hosting a VIP event for your major donor prospects. Small, exclusive, and personal — that’s the level of event you want to bring your major gift donors to.

Show them that they are not just donors — they are also a very important part of your organization and play a key role in serving your mission.

If a traditional in-person event is not possible, a virtual event is also a great way to engage your prospects and show your major gift donors how much they mean to you.

Host volunteer opportunities to engage your major gift prospects.

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

Just because a major donor prospect is presumably going to donate a large sum of money, it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t appreciate volunteering.

A personalized volunteering opportunity lets your major donors in on the action, allowing them to experience your organization’s work firsthand. If your in-person volunteer activities are on pause, there are plenty of ways for your major gift prospects to help out virtually instead.

Provide a tour of the office to cultivate your major gift donor relationships.

TOUR OF THE OFFICE

Show potential donors what you’re all about, what you’re doing on the ground, and how you’re operating day-to-day with a tour of the office! If a physical tour is not possible due to external reasons, consider filming a virtual tour instead. This way, your major gift prospects can visit the office from the comfort of their own homes.

A tour of the office is a proven way to solidify a donor’s interest in giving a substantial gift to your nonprofit.

Consider hosting an informational luncheon for major gift donor prospects.

INFORMATIONAL LUNCHEON

Informational luncheons offer a casual way to further educate prospects about major giving without being too formal. Keep your information action-driven, explaining exactly how major donations can be used to further your cause and achieve tangible objectives.

Luncheons are a low-stakes environment to learn about your cause and get inspired! To pivot this to a virtual opportunity, consider setting up a luncheon through video and even catering food to your major gift donors’ houses.

Soliciting Major Gift Prospects

Use the data you learn in your major gift solicitations.

ACCOUNT FOR WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED

Use details that you’ve learned about your major gift donor to make your ask as personal as possible. Go beyond the facts and figures you’ve gleaned from prospect research and tailor your ask to the person using key data points. For example, simply including the prospect’s name can increase conversion rates!

Utilize support documents to solicit major gift prospects.

UTILIZE SUPPORT DOCUMENTS

Supply your donors with evidence that shows them why donating to your nonprofit will positively impact the cause that they care about. You can do this by providing prospects with physical documents (or emailed ones!) that summarize your case for major donations.

Prepare a suggested ask based on data in your major gift solicitation.

PREPARE A SUGGESTED ASK

Using the information that you’ve gathered from prospect screening and data from your database, determine a reasonable amount to request. The amount you ask for should reflect your donor’s financial capability and past donations. Try to hit the perfect balance of aiming higher than your past fundraisers but still being realistic.

Map out the conversation before you plan to solicit gifts from a major gift prospect.

MAP OUT THE CONVERSATION

Plan out your half of the conversation and anticipate what your donor may say in response. Highlight the major points that you might need to hit to create an effective pitch so that nothing important is forgotten in the course of the conversation.

Make sure your major gift solicitation has a backup plan.

CREATE A BACKUP PLAN

Go into your conversations with donors with the expectation of negotiation. Begin your ask by making your highest request first. If a donor says yes right away, you’ve probably left money on the table. Whittle down your original request until both you and your donor feel comfortable.

Plan out next steps for after you make the major gift ask.

KNOW YOUR NEXT STEPS

Have a plan in place to follow up after your ask. Depending on your donor’s response, you may need to confirm a donation, send more information, or try a new approach. Be sure you have reliable contact information and notes from the meeting.

Major Donor Stewardship and Retention

What is major donor stewardship?

WHAT IS MAJOR DONOR STEWARDSHIP?

Major donor stewardship follows the same principles as stewardship for any other type of fundraising. It centers around acknowledging, recognizing, and thanking your donors. Where it differs from the rest is in the execution.

For instance, major gift recognition and gratitude should correlate with the level of the contribution. 

Major gifts are game-changers, and your stewardship strategies and efforts should match that.

Why is stewardship important for major gifts?

It may seem counter-intuitive, but major donors often become repeat donors. One might think that if a donor has already contributed a significant sum, they would no longer be interested in giving any further.

But this actually hasn’t shown to be the case! And that’s part of why stewardship is so vital. It’s proper stewardship that ensures the retention of a major gift donor in the long-run. Build on all the effort you’ve already put in!

What are the stewardship best practices in regards to major gifts?

WHAT ARE STEWARDSHIP BEST PRACTICES?

More than just streamlining the process of donating and sending out personalized acknowledgments, the best practices for crafting a successful stewardship strategy are about matching the level of commitment and enthusiasm that a major gift signifies.

Practically, this means curating experiences and opportunities to thank and celebrate your major gift donors. Again, a lot of the same principles apply, just on a grander scale. If your in-person experiences and opportunities are on a current pause, virtual ones can be just as fulfilling.

Starting a Major Gift Program

Steps to Getting Started with a Major Gifts Program

The first step to getting started with a major gifts program is getting leadership on board.

Get leadership on board.

Major gift efforts require everyone on your team to be involved in some way, shape, or form. So you’ll need all of the support from your leadership team as is possible.

As we mentioned earlier, a great technique for courting major donors is to introduce them to your organization’s executive director.

Plus, your leadership team likely has valuable major donor connections, since people of philanthropic interest tend to flock together!

To start a major gift program you need to recruit your fundraising team.

Recruit your fundraising team.

In addition to having your leadership on board, you’ll also want to have board members, fundraisers, prospect researchers, and even some marketers on your major gift team. Make sure you recruit a dedicated team of people to work on your major gift fundraising.

The success of your major gifts effort relies on having all hands on deck at any given time.

Make sure before you create your major gift program, you determine what qualifies as a major gift.

Determine what qualifies as a major gift at your organization.

What qualifies as a major gift will fluctuate from organization to organization. For instance, a smaller organization may consider $10,000 to be a major gift, while a larger organization might require a gift to be over $100,000 to be considered major.

As you grow, your standards will naturally change. It’s important to update your standards every so often, as this standard will dictate the strategy dedicated to cultivating and soliciting certain prospects over others.

Performing prospect research is essential for your major gifts program.

Perform prospect research.

You might be surprised by the number of major gift prospects that you already have within your existing donor base. Prospect research is the best way to find out who among your current supporters is likely to give a major gift.

Keep in mind that you should be scouting out prospects who have:

  • A proven willingness to give (a history of giving to nonprofits).
  • A demonstrated capacity to give (tangible wealth markers).

If those two key factors are in alignment, there’s a high likelihood that that person could be a major gift donor.

Establish tangible outcomes before you implement a major gifts program.

Establish tangible outcomes.

When a major donor gives to your organization, they expect to see tangible results from that contribution.

This means that they want to see how their major gift is affecting real change. They also might expect some kind of program perks. Incentives for donating never hurt!

For instance, if a major gift donor gives a significant contribution to your capital campaign, they may want to have the opportunity to name the building they’re helping to fund.

In either case, your donors want to know that their major gifts are being used effectively and to create real impact.

Before implementing your major gifts program, you need to create a solicitation strategy.

Create a solicitation strategy.

Ask your prospect researchers to put together profiles on your major gift candidates with recommended asks. Then, divide the profiles among your fundraising team.

Each team member should work in conjunction with your board and marketers to create the ultimate presentation personalized for each of the profiles of major gift prospects.

The next step is to begin the solicitation process. It’s time to make the ask!

Consider implementing a stewardship program alongside your major gifts program.

Implement a stewardship program.

Major gift donors are investing a lot in your organization. It only makes sense to reciprocate.

Because there likely aren’t an overwhelming number of major gift donors within most donor pools, you absolutely can take the time to cultivate meaningful relationships with each and every one of them. This is also the best way to ensure long-lasting support!

You should, of course, send out acknowledgments as you would with any other donor. You can also take donor stewardship a step further by:

  • Scheduling check-in calls to get a sense of how that donor is doing and where your relationship with them stands. This is especially important in times of crisis.
  • Taking the time to really get to know them through one-on-one conversations. If you can’t meet in person, video chat is a great alternative.
  • Finding creative ways to recognize them. For instance, giving them a shout-out on your next email newsletter can go a long way.
  • Sending them thank yous occasionally throughout the year, even when they haven’t donated recently. Their major gift has helped your organization in more ways than one, so make sure to express this.
  • Corresponding about topics outside of asks and acknowledgments. Make sure your major donors know that you care about them past the gifts they give. Consider increasing communications on exciting opportunities for them or providing resources on current events.

Stewardship is one of the most important steps in the major giving process. Make sure you have a firm plan in place for how you maintain relationships after the gift has been made.

Evaluate your major gifts programs by assessing your results.

Assess your results.

It’s always a good idea to set and evaluate key performance indicators when implementing any sort of fundraising strategy.

It’s especially important to do so when you’re going through the major gift acquisition process.

You may want to pay particular attention to:

  • ROI.
  • Gifts secured.
  • Average major gift size.
  • Average giving capacity (of top donors).

With these metrics in mind, you can assess your existing campaign and identify improvement opportunities for the future.

Major Gift Proposals

Make sure to personalize your major gift proposals.

PRIORITIZE PERSONALIZING

The Strategy: Creating a customized proposal is a vital step. Call upon the relationship you’ve built with your major donor to craft the most effective proposal possible.
How to implement: Make sure to use your major gift donors’ preferred name in letters, emails, and in-person conversations. Use their desired titles and pay attention to the level of formality that they prefer.

Summarize the options in your major gift proposal.

SUMMARIZE THE OPTIONS

The Strategy: Present your major donors with a few different campaigns or programs that their gift can support. These campaigns will each create a slightly different impact in the community, allowing the supporter to give to the sector they’re most passionate about.
How to implement: Summarize the various programs that require additional assistance in email content and on your online donation page. Try to guide your donor toward high levels of need, but do not tell them how to give their money.

Align your goals with your donors' in your major gift proposals.

ALIGN YOUR GOALS

The Strategy: Your donor is already acquainted with your organization and its cause. Now, explain how the donor fits into the bigger picture by showing how their specific interests align with your nonprofit or with certain goals that your nonprofit has set out to achieve.
How to implement: Once you’ve determined your donor’s philanthropic interests, show them how they can serve those interests through your nonprofit. Prepare your asking strategy based upon the donor’s profile.

Make a direct and specific ask in your major gift proposal.

MAKE A DIRECT, SPECIFIC ASK

The Strategy: Use the data you’ve compiled to persuade your major prospect to contribute. You should know from your research what their giving capacity is so that you can make an informed and accurate request.
How to implement: Using the information you’ve gathered about your donor, make a direct ask that includes the amount you want, the program that needs the donation, and why this particular program requires this gift. Be clear about what you need.

Acknowledge a donor's charitable past in your major gift proposals.

ACKNOWLEDGE, ACKNOWLEDGE, ACKNOWLEDGE

The Strategy: Thanking your donors and acknowledging their past contributions shows your gratitude and encourages them to donate again.
How to implement: If you’re speaking with someone who has previously given to your organization, mention how helpful their past gift was and tell a specific impact story. If they are a new donor, you can recognize them for their philanthropic interests and generous spirit.

Your donors should know the possible results of a major gift in your proposal.

FOCUS ON RESULTS

The Strategy: Illustrate the impact of the gift to your donor. By explaining how their gift will be used to further your nonprofit’s cause, you give them a clear idea of their value and necessity to your organization.
How to implement: Discuss how the donation could be used hypothetically, and support your statement with concrete data and examples or success stories to show how gifts are used for good. Once the campaign is done, let your major donors know of the exact impacts.

Major Gift Fundraising Best Practices

For Cultivating A Major Gift Donor:

Host events catered to major gift donors

HOST EVENTS CATERED TO MAJOR DONORS

It’s always a good idea to host an event to better get to know your major prospects. Typically, these events are special occasions such as galas or live auctions. However, when in-person engagements are not an option, hosting a virtual event is a great alternative and opens it up to more guests. For instance, consider planning an online auction and equipping your guests with mobile bidding tools.

The benefits of hosting an exclusive event include:

  • Pulling in prospects. Events like this, by nature, get a lot of people capable of making a large donation in one room together.
  • Informing future donors. They can then learn more about your organization, the cause you serve, and the kind of impact their gifts could have on the mission.
  • Making the connection. Getting to know these donors a little better gives your fundraisers a clearer picture of who would be the top prospects to pursue. It also allows these donors to get to know the key players in your organization. This way, donors can match a face with a name for future communications.

Use your board's connections in your major gift strategies.

LEVERAGE YOUR BOARD’S CONNECTIONS

While your board members may well be major donors themselves, they may also be able to lead your team to other major prospects. Your board members often have the kind of connections you need to reach out to prospects. This way, you can leverage your board members’ existing connections to form new ones yourself.

When leveraging your board members’ connections, be sure to:

  • Assess prospects. Don’t overlook the people who are already within your organization! Evaluate the connections already available to your board.
  • Initiate the process. Ask your board members to reach out to key people in their networks. Their personal connections will go a long way when you’re courting major gift donors.
  • Retain the connection. Consider including the board member who introduced you to the major donor in all communications.

Make sure to show major gift donors their return on investment.

SHOW MAJOR GIFT DONORS THEIR ROI

Before a donor commits to a major gift, they’ll likely want to know what their return on investment will be. To appease this curiosity, you should be sure to discuss the programs and impact that your organization plans to make using the major gift. 

Specifically, you’ll want to:

  • Emphasize their specific areas of interest. Pitch the programs with great results that also speak to your donor’s philanthropic interests.
  • Communicate clearly. Communicate the donation amount you would need for your project as well as the impact that money would realistically accomplish. Be transparent with your numbers.
  • Fit into the major gift bigger picture. Showing your donor how their donation helps your overall goal can make them feel like they’re part of a bigger cause.

For Stewarding A Major Gift Donor:

Start a major gift donor society.

START A MAJOR DONOR SOCIETY

Major donor societies are essentially members-only clubs for your most generous contributors. Think of your major gift society as a chance to build a close-knit community of major donors.

They’re beneficial for many reasons, including:

  • Exclusivity. The exclusivity makes donors feel as though they’re a part of something special — because they are!
  • Incentive. Setting a minimum donation amount for acceptance to the society encourages donors to give more than they otherwise might have to become a part of it.
  • Stewardship. Having a major gift society allows your organization to implement an excellent stewardship process in place across the board.

Engage your major gift donors with volunteer opportunities.

ENGAGE DONORS AS VOLUNTEERS

Nothing gets donors (of all sizes) as excited or invested in giving to your organization as getting hands-on with your work. Volunteer opportunities are great ways to engage your major gift donors in a fun and meaningful way. If your in-person activities are on a pause, consider providing additional virtual volunteer opportunities!

To create the best volunteering experience, be sure to:

  • Create volunteer opportunities. Host a volunteer day or another special similar event for your major gift prospects.
  • Encourage active participation. If your major donor is interested in your volunteer work, they’ll be more engaged. Let them participate directly with the cause.
  • Give tangible results. By experiencing your work firsthand, they’ll have a greater sense of the immense difference their contributions could make.

Share specific results of your major gift efforts.

ALWAYS SHARE SPECIFIC RESULTS

Because they’re giving a substantial sum to your organization, major donors understandably want to know exactly how their money will be used.

When choosing how to frame your results, consider:

  • Day-to-day details. Show them the nitty-gritty, day-to-day details of the work and projects impacted by their contribution so that they can visualize their financial support in practice.
  • Overall progress. Make it a priority to give the big picture to show them how their contribution extends beyond a singular project.
  • Their impact. Show them that their gift has made a large and lasting impact on your mission and the cause you serve. Give specific results or examples.

Integrating Major Gifts Into Your Fundraising Strategy

Use major gift solicitations to increase your annual funds.

ANNUAL GIVING

A successful annual fundraising strategy knows to put an emphasis on strengthening existing relationships. Because of this, your annual fund donors are some of your nonprofit’s most dedicated supporters. Your team should look towards annual givers when identifying major giving prospects.

Once you identify a prospect with the right financial capacity and a proven record of annual fundraising support, make your solicitation!

Utilize major gift strategies in your planned giving efforts.

PLANNED GIVING

Planned gift and major gift prospects share some similar traits. Both often have a long relationship with your organization and a proven connection to philanthropic work associated with the mission. They also often have similar giving capacities from a financial perspective. However, planned gifts are simply promised at a later date, often as a part of a will when a supporter passes away.

Because of the shared predictors, it’s important to compare respective donor pools for the giving types.

Utilize major gifts for your capital campaigns.

CAPITAL CAMPAIGNS

During a capital campaign’s quiet phase (before the fundraising effort is publicly promoted), the whole team usually works diligently to secure major gifts. Approximately 60% of the average campaign’s total is raised during that major-gift-centric phase.

As such, a dedicated major gift solicitation strategy is absolutely crucial for rolling out a successful capital campaign.

Improving Your Major Gift Program

Hiring a Major Gifts Officer

What are the key responsibilities for a major gifts officer?

WHAT ARE THE KEY RESPONSIBILITIES FOR A MAJOR GIFTS OFFICER?

In essence, a major gift officer leads your nonprofit’s processes regarding all things major gifts-related.

The duties involved typically include:

  • Coordinating the major gift program.
  • Determining the direction of your major giving program.
  • Selecting major gift prospects for cultivation.
  • Building relationships with prospective major donors.
  • Soliciting donations from major gift donors.
  • Designing a major donor stewardship program.

What experience is recommended for a major gift officer?

WHAT EXPERIENCE IS RECOMMENDED?

Education level is important in determining a top candidate for a major gift officer, but at the end of the day, finding someone with the right experience should be your number one priority.

For the most part, the only educational experience that is truly necessary is a bachelor’s degree. There are, of course, graduate degrees and certificates in fundraising that a person can obtain. However, the most useful knowledge comes not from academic curricula but from being hands-on with the major gifts process for a number of years.

What skills are recommended for a major gift officer?

WHAT SKILLS ARE NECESSARY FOR A MAJOR GIFTS OFFICER?

Having skills in fundraising, relationship-building, and communication is essential to being a good major gifts officer.

Consider the following skills:

  • An extensive familiarity with fundraising. The right person for the job will have dealt with all of the various depths that fundraising reaches.
  • Excellent communication skills. Long story short, they need to be able to communicate not only with your donors, but also with the other team members in your organization.
  • A willingness to power through challenges. Major gift fundraising is tough; make sure you pick someone who’s up to the challenge.
  • A passion for the cause.  It’s way easier to convince someone to contribute to a cause that you yourself are also deeply invested in.

Major Gift Fundraising Tools

Ensure you invest in top prospect research tools during major gift fundraising.

PROSPECT RESEARCH TOOLS

The more time and energy you invest in your major giving strategy, the more extensive your prospect research efforts will need to be. Plus, you’ll need more support and tools you’ll need to maximize your efforts. 

Luckily, with the help of a prospect research screening tool, you can drastically cut down on the time your team spends researching, freeing them up to focus on cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship.

Look for a software solution that also offers you a mobile-responsive view of your prospects so that you can stay updated on-the-go. This will help you brush up on information as you prepare for in-person meetings with prospects. You can read about them in the cab ride over!

Create dedicated marketing materials for your major gift fundraising.

MARKETING MATERIALS

Between all the donor engagements leading up to the ask and the final solicitation itself, you’re going to be creating and sending a lot of marketing and communications content. Your best bet is to create templates for common engagements to help speed up the process. This will help you make sure you don’t miss any vital information when you reach out to prospects. 

Once you’ve created templates for the various marketing materials, you’ll be able to personalize each template for the needs of every specific major gift prospect.

Customizing your marketing materials with information from your prospect profile templates can improve your relationship with your prospects.

Consider investing in a major gift calculator.

MAJOR GIFT CALCULATOR

Helpful in mapping out the gift amount you’re aiming for, major gift calculators offer a great way to visually represent how your team should approach your fundraising goal.

Presented as a chart, the gift calculator will tell you how many gifts you need to acquire at various giving levels to reach your goal. For instance, if your nonprofit wants to raise $100,000, you may decide that you need one $50,000 gift, two $10,000 gifts, four $5,000 gifts, and ten $1,000 gifts.

A gift range chart guide can also steer your development team in the right direction when planning a campaign.

Invest in a donor database to maximize your major gift fundraising.

DONOR DATABASE SOFTWARE

It is imperative that your team has an effective and efficient way of tracking and managing the various types of donor data that you encounter.

From identification through solicitation processes, your organization will be presented with tons of data. Nonprofits with the expertise to effectively manage that data are the ones that have truly successful major gift programs.

The first step of managing your donor data is having a comprehensive major giving CRM, so make sure you choose the right software for your organization.

Major Gift Fundraising Metrics

MAJOR GIFT PROGRAM ROI

What is this? Return on investment (ROI) is a metric that tracks the fundraising profit relative to its costs. Specifically, it calculates how much money you raised per every dollar spent. Apply ROI to major gifts to see if your efforts are paying off.

How do we track it? Divide the net revenue of your major gifts efforts by the total cost. If the number is greater than 1, you’ve made a profit.

AVERAGE MAJOR GIFT SIZE

What is this? The average major gift size is simply the average amount of donated money that qualifies as a major gift. To calculate, divide your revenue from a certain time period and/or event by the total number of major gifts in that same frame.

How do we track it? You can track average gift size for specific campaigns or over a designated time period, allowing you to measure whether or not your major gifts are growing overall.

MAJOR DONOR RETENTION RATE

What is this? Your major donor retention rate is the percentage of recurring major donors over a certain period of time. Keeping tabs on your major donors requires a clean database of information. Be sure to update your donor information frequently so that you can identify donors who are no longer active.

How do we track it? Divide the number of recurring major donors by the total number of major donors; then, multiply by 100 to view the metric as a percentage.

AVERAGE GIVING CAPACITY

What is this? Giving capacity is an informed estimate of how much each donor can give. It can help you to make more targeted, accurate requests for donations. Compare your average giving capacity to your average major gift size to ensure there isn’t a sizable discrepancy.

How do we track it? Analyze the donor’s connection to your cause, their philanthropic propensity, and their wealth markers. Tracking your prospect research data within your CRM can help you also determine how common metrics change over time.

MAJOR GIFTS SECURED

What is this? This metric is pretty straightforward. It shows the number of major gifts that you’ve received over a certain period of time.

How do we track it? By accounting for this metric, you can track the growth of specific efforts, like your major donor program.

ASKS MADE

What is this? Asks made are the amount of times your major gift officers have asked for a donation.

How do we track it? Keep a running tally of your asks within your database and, specifically, in your donor profiles. Tracking asks made will ensure that you reach your target number of asks without asking the same donor too many times or too frequently.

Determining Major Donor Giving Capacity

What can data do for your major gift fundraising?

WHAT CAN THE DATA TELL YOU?

Data is key when major gift fundraising. The more you know about your prospects, the better equipped you’ll be to make an ask. And the more you know about your existing major gift donors, the better you can keep them engaged.

Once you know where to look, data can tell you who is most likely to make a donation and how they’d like you to handle cultivation and stewardship. Sophisticated handling of donor data will give your program a big leg up.

How do you determine a major gift donor's giving capacity?

HOW DO YOU DETERMINE GIVING CAPACITY?

As a part of your data analysis for major giving, you’ll need to zero in on the information that determines donor giving capacity. At the end of the day, a donor’s wealth plays a significant role in major giving.

You can estimate giving capacity scores by looking at a donor’s wealth markers like real estate. Just remember that capacity doesn’t necessarily equal willingness, so philanthropic drive should also be a main factor in prospecting.

Major Gift Fundraising During a Crisis

COVID-19 and Nonprofit Fundraising

COVID-19 has likely affected your nonprofit and major gift strategies.

EFFECTS ON NONPROFITS

It’s no secret that COVID-19, a global pandemic, has affected how nonprofits and other organizations fundraise.

You’ve likely had to pause all face-to-face donor engagements, cancel or postpone upcoming events, and move your entire staff to a work-from-home model, leaving your organization leaders unsure about the next best steps.

Regarding health guidelines, we urge you to frequently check the CDC website for more updates as well as your own local jurisdictions. Right now, all in-person engagements and events should be put on a pause, so you should consider prioritizing online engagements instead.

 

COVID-19 has likely also affected your donors and major gift donors.

EFFECTS ON DONORS

It’s likely that your donors have been hit hard by COVID-19 as well. With record-breaking unemployment numbers, a majority of your supporters are probably not in the best financial position to contribute a gift right now. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to help.

While you shouldn’t continue “fundraising as normal,” that doesn’t mean you pause engagement altogether. If anything, this is a great time to work on developing your supporter relationships and start meaningful dialogue that strengthens your connection with them. For instance, ask your supporters how they’re doing during this time and provide resources that might be able to help, whether they’re written by you, other professionals, or health leaders. 

You already know that keeping your existing donors is more beneficial and cost-effective than trying to acquire new ones in the future. By focusing on your donor relationships now, you still set the stage for engagement later down the road. This way, when that individual can make a gift sometime in the future, your organization is at the forefront of their mind.

Major Gifts Fundraising Best Practices During COVID-19

One of the best ways to boost your fundraising is to prioritize your major donors. For one thing, a gift from this type and amount could greatly help your organization. However, that shouldn’t necessarily be your main goal right now. Due to COVID-19, there are a couple of best practices you should follow as you go forward:

  • Rethink your current major gifts strategy. It’s likely worth it to rethink your major giving strategy and, instead of a gift as the end goal, focus on developing those relationships.
  • Increase non-fundraising communications. This might not be the best time to right out ask for a gift. Consider non-fundraising communications like asking your major donors how they’re feeling, providing helpful resources regarding the situation, continuing to host online experiential opportunities, and more!
  • Implement donor segmentation in communications. Times of crisis often mean that your donor relationships are more fragile than usual. One mistake or wrong email can turn the supporter off from your cause. Make sure to segment your major gift donors to ensure that you create specific content targeted just for them.
  • Utilize video tools for one-on-one meetings with donors. Nonprofits often meet with their major gift donors one-on-one to update them on important organization changes and to develop the relationship. You may also choose to ask your major donors for their opinions on programming to make them feel more connected to the actions your nonprofit is taking during these difficult times. 
  • Host virtual events and opportunities. Since your in-person engagements are now on a pause, consider pivoting them to the virtual realm instead. Virtual fundraising events and other online opportunities are a great way to keep your major gift donors engaged!
Here are the major gift fundraising best practices during COVID-19

Additional Resources

Check out this prospect research guide to improve your major gifts fundraising.

PROSPECT RESEARCH: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE

One of the most important tools nonprofits have at their disposal when soliciting major donors is prospect research.

Need a refresher?

Brush up on everything there is to know with our newly-updated prospect research guide!

Learn more about capital campaigns and how major gifts can help!

CAPITAL CAMPAIGNS: UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS

Capital campaigns rely heavily on major donors in order to help them meet their fundraising goals.

As such, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of how capital campaigns work.

Check out our handy guide to learn more!

Check out this major gifts insider's guide.

THE INSIDER’S GUIDE TO MAJOR GIFTS

Still feeling a little lost when it comes to all things major gifts?

Double the Donation has got you covered!

Take a look at their comprehensive insider’s guide to major gifts to get even more useful information and support!