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Major Giving

Major donors occasionally contribute to an organization with a gift that is larger than the ongoing annual support gift amount. While the exact amount constituting a major gift tends to differ for each organization, many may choose to set a minimum major gift threshold based on analysis of their donor file. Keep reading for the best practices on establishing and strengthening your major giving strategy.

Building Your Major Giving Program

Developing a solid major gift program is possible with thoughtful planning and consideration. Successful programs include detailed and thoughtful plans for each action development professionals should take. Here are some basic tips for building your major gifts program:

Define your major gift threshold. Every organization receives major gifts; the main difference between the many major gift programs out there is how “major” is defined. Evaluate all of the gift amounts your organizations receives from smallest to largest, then compare those amounts to the volume of gifts you receive. You can determine the amount that qualifies as a major gift for your organization by looking at which gift amounts you received the fewest of. As we know, nonprofits receive few major gifts, but major gifts usually represent the majority of the amount of money raised.

Classify your donor and prospect groups. It is important to identify donors who are already giving and prospects who have the capacity to give. This process should occur continually, and it should consist of evaluating all of the new donors and prospects that are always trickling in, and then feeding appropriate individuals into the major gifts program.

Build portfolios. Assign your major givers to staff so that they can cultivate relationships.

Identify stages of solicitation. For every major gift, there are stages of solicitation. At a minimum, these are stages such as identification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship. This gives you the opportunity to make it known exactly where you stand in the process. And, it provides others with an idea of what asks are in the pipeline and have the potential to be fulfilled.

Engage with moves management. Each task you complete during the major gift solicitation is an important part of the story behind how gifts are acquired. Phone calls, meetings, and other actions are also an important way for a major gift officer to further develop relationships and acquire new information.

Show gratitude. As in the case of any donation, remember that acknowledging gifts or donations is the first step in cultivating another gift.


Prospecting for Major Giving

To grow your major gifts program, rely on donor inclination to give in tandem with identified giving capacity. Those who appear more likely to give major gifts to your organization and that have a higher capacity would be in the top group to assign a major gift officer and/or development leader. This way, you staff can qualify, cultivate, and solicit larger giving opportunities. You can pre-qualify some of these individuals through wealth screening data. This may also help you to better understand these individuals’ public assets, business information, relationships, and philanthropic connections. Remember to use a specialized approach when interacting with your major givers, rather than relying solely on mass mail or email.

Nonprofit organizations often louse analytics to identify who would likely give significant gifts to help realize a goal. Fundraisers should also analyze how much idealized potential exists for a proposed campaign by calculating the low, middle, and high end of capacity ranges, thus weighting “hit rates” or yield ratios. For example, if you have 100 prospects who are likely to be targeted for gifts of $25,000-$50,000 and your historical yield or “hit rate” in securing gifts is from 1 out of every 10 prospects you reach out to and qualify/disqualify, then you are looking at idealized potential from these 100 prospects of $250,000 to $500,000.

For more information on this topic, please visit: Predictive Analytics for Major Giving


Engaging with Major Givers

Not every donor is going to come to you—you’ll often be pitching your organization to others. There are several strategies you’ll want to employ when meeting with your major donors and prospects. 1

Learn to listen. When you interact with a major donor, try to get to know them on a personal level and hear what about your mission resonates with them. Understanding a bit about their personal life and why they’re interested in your organization can help you better understand their involvement and how they prefer to be engaged.

Tell a story. Avoid treating your meeting like a presentation. Instead, use it as an opportunity to tell the story of your cause and how your organization fills a unique need.

Prepare. Before you meet with a prospective donor, you need to prepare. What kind of questions will they ask? Who will do the talking? What pitch will you give, and how will you adjust that pitch on the fly to their responses?

Keep it simple. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel with your donation pitch. Keep it down to a simple message: who you are, what you do, why you do it, and how the person you’re speaking to can help.