Major Gift Fundraising: 9 Best Practices You Can Implement Today

February 25, 2019 - 6 minutes read

Major donors are extremely important to your cause. Just take a quick look at the number of donations you’ve received in say, the past 6 months or year.

While you may have several donors, a cursory glance should be enough to tell you that a lion’s share of your donations come from your major donors. Their donations, in all likelihood, mammoth the gifts given by the rest of your collective donor base.

(Ironically, the size of the rest of your donor base probably mammoths the number of your major donors.)

The point here is, while your major donors are few in number, they’re extremely important for your organization simply because of the size of their gifts.

But the fundraising techniques you apply to regular donors cannot be applied here, because, well, major donors are, you know, major!

So in this article, let’s look at some of the best practices you can use when soliciting gifts from this portion of your supporters.

Use Relational Fundraising To Solicit Funds

While soliciting gifts from major donors, if a direct appeal is made from a nonprofit supporter the donor knows and trusts, it’ll result in more frequent and generous gifts. This is because such requests bank on the personal connection they have with the solicitor.

Give Individual Acknowledgment

When thanking major gift donors, the automated donation receipt and thank you combination will not cut it. Just like how the solicitations are personal, the best acknowledgments are personal as well. What you can do is send handwritten thank you notes from your board members, personally call and thank them, and invite them for exclusive recognition events.

Show Them The Impact Of Their Investment

Instead of just sending campaign progress or updates after you’ve achieved your goals, tell major donors what the funds will accomplish. Detail how much money the project needs, the specifics of how their money would be used, and what the expected end result is going to be. After which, send personalized updates when as you hit milestones.

Don’t have A One-Dimensional Relationships With Donors

The biggest mistake most nonprofits make is cultivating a one-dimensional relationship with major donors. In fact, you should develop a four-dimensional relationship. That means establishing a strong relationship between the donor and the gift officer, organizational leadership (CEO, Board president, etc), staff members, and encouraging relationships between major donors.

Don’t Go With The Notion That Anyone Can Be A Major Gift Officer

All nonprofits, regardless of the size, should hire a major gift officer. But due to lack of resources smaller or newer nonprofits give away this responsibility to staff members. In such cases, you should look for a person on your fundraising team who can plot the direction of your program, act as a liaison between your donors and your organization, take part in cultivation and solicitation, and develop stewardship plans.

Get Them To Volunteer

A lot of nonprofits think that asking major donors to volunteer is asking too much, as they’re already helping you run your programs. But in reality, donors value transparency and want to see how your organization works so that they can make an informed decision about contributing. So, curate your volunteer experiences according to what would best suit the donor and turn them into lifelong ambassadors.

Use A Multichannel Approach To Build Strong Relationships

Communication tools like emails, texts, phone calls, and social media must be used simultaneously to strengthen your relationship with major donors. Use emails to keep them updated with your nonprofit’s work and pique their interest. Text messages to send them birthday wishes or acknowledge milestones in their lives. Phone calls to ask for their opinion. And social media to publically acknowledge them.

Host Events For Major Donors

Apart from inviting major donors to all your events, invite them exclusively for a lunch-and-learn. Here you can keep them informed of key developments within your organization and continue an ongoing dialogue. Also, it’s important to talk to them face-to-face about the impact of their donations.

Evaluate Your Major Gift Metrics

The best way to improve your major gift fundraising is to track and evaluate your progress. Take a look at the asks made, gifts secured, average major gift size, and major donor retention rate. Depending on your evaluation you’ll know exactly which area needs improvement.

You cannot rush a major gift solicitation as it requires a great deal of relationship building. Rather enter into each cultivation with the knowledge that you’re in it for the long-haul. Follow these major gift fundraising best practices to streamline your process.

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