In order to create an impact, you need the support and action of your donors. Major gift donors, in that sense, play an integral part in helping your organization create change. In a 2017 study conducted by the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, it was reported that 88% of gifts were contributed by 12% of donors. Now, fundraising fits well within the 80/20 rule. So, since it’s confirmed that the majority of gifts given come from a small percentage of donors, it’s clear that each donor must contribute substantial gifts. The question is: what are the best ways to find and cultivate relationships with major gift donors?
When it comes to major donor fundraising, you want to be able to pinpoint which donors are worth pursuing; forge and nurture relationships with them; and create the “ask”. Let’s explore the necessary steps you should take to create the best major donor fundraising strategy.
Major Donor Fundraising Strategies: Top 4 Ways to Enhance Your Efforts
1. Determine What Qualifies as a Major Gift for Your Organization
Before you identify, cultivate, and solicit gifts from major gift donors, it’s necessary for you to determine what qualifies as a major gift for your nonprofit. Major gifts (which are the largest monetary gifts your organization receives), as a donation type, are varied. In short, every organization determines the size of their major gifts differently.
This can be dependent on the size of your organization, the length of time it’s been around, and what you’re fundraising for. For example, a gift over $5k may be large for some organizations, such as a local theatre company. Meanwhile, other organizations may consider gifts over $100k to be major gifts, like a state university. To establish a major gift starting point, it’s important to evaluate and understand the largest gifts your organization has received in the past. It can also be helpful to identify your top individual donors and determine what their propensity and capacity to give is. This should be determined in relation to their giving history with your organization and organizations similar to yours. Additionally, you should make sure that your major gift range aligns with organizations within your industry. Adopting a similar major gift range ensures that your organization isn’t being unintentionally undervalued.
2. Identify Optimal Donors and Prospects
Before you can cultivate deep relationships with major gift donors, it’s important to understand who in your database, has major gift potential. That’s the next step in major donor fundraising: conducting a wealth screening and modeling your best donors.
Ask yourself: which of our donors has given the most in the past few years? Which of our donors give on a recurring basis? And, which of our donors displays a passion for our mission and our initiatives? Screenings help you pick up on key attributes like an individual’s wealth, income, lifestyle, and affinity. This allows you to find, segment, and prioritize your prospects and donors accordingly. So, you can identify what each individual’s propensity and capacity to spend is.
The next best practice in major donor fundraising is a major gift model. Once you know what your major donors look like, and once you’ve identified common traits among them, you gain a clearer impression of who to target. Using WealthEngine data in combination with information from your organization’s database, we can create a custom algorithm to determine who would be most likely to contribute major gifts to your organization. These can be people among your list of donors who haven’t been reached yet or prospective donors who exist beyond your database. Additionally, you can score prospects to see how they compare in relation to your best donors. Screening and modeling allow you to hone in on your most relevant donors. So, you can focus all your energy on developing long-standing relationships with them.
3. Personalize Your Outreach Strategy
Now that you’ve identified which donors have an ability and willingness to donate major gifts, it’s time for the next step: reaching out. One way to develop a relationship with major gift donors is to personalize your outreach. You can personalize your outreach through tailored messaging, creative touchpoints, and donor involvement in other areas of your organization.
When donors decide to contribute major gifts, they aren’t giving to your organization at random. They’re giving because they feel connected to the work you’re doing and want to make an impact by funding your services. So, by sending your donors messages that highlight their individual interests, you have an opportunity to bridge the gap between what they value, personally, and how your organization works in alignment with those values.
So, your organization can communicate with donors through standard channels like direct mail, email, or invitations to public events. You can also take your efforts a step further and generate personal ‘thank you’ videos; send major gift donors or prospects ‘insider’ updates; invite them to observe your projects as they come together; or even invite them to intimate events where they can meet with the CEO and senior staff. This gives them an opportunity to discuss upcoming initiatives they may have a vested interest in. Involving donors in other areas of your organization is an integral part of your major donor fundraising strategy. By inviting them to see your programs in action, they have a greater opportunity to deepen their passion and interest in the work you do.
4. Implement a Stewardship Program
The final step in your major donor fundraising strategy is to express gratitude for your donors. Once you’ve begun cultivating and nurturing relationships with major gift donors and prospects, it’s important to engage in stewardship. Donors are the catalysts for all your major goals. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to enhance the programs and services you have in place. So, if major gift donors aren’t treated as key players, they may not feel that the impact they’re making is valued.
Essentially, you want to continue communicating with your donors so you can effectively meet the gift intentions and expectations they’ve set out. Show your donors how their gift will be used and what kind of effect it will make on your cause. It’s also important to express thanks in multiple ways. You can do this in-person, publicly (in your newsletter or on your website), in a handwritten note, or on a phone call. Recognition like this will inspire major gift donors to give again and again. Not only are they doing something of value, but their contributions are also being put towards something actionable.
Above all, make sure to follow up with your donors so they know how their gifts have been used. By showing them that you created something impactful because of their contributions, they’ll see themselves as agents for change. Now, and for the future.