What exactly is a Major Gift? Major gifts will be different for every organization and are not just for a capital campaign. Major gifts should be a priority for every organization and can help build a diverse portfolio within an organization’s annual fund. Sustaining a major gifts program can be a long process, but also represents an incredibly rewarding opportunity for your nonprofit.

A successful Major Gifts Program (MGP) requires cultivating strong relationships with prospects and gaining their trust by informing them of how their dollars can directly benefit your organization. You are still telling a very compelling story but major donors will give because of ability to give and affinity to your organization. They are more deeply engaged and have participated in your mission.

Steps for Implementing a Major Gifts Program:

  1. Dig into the data, review past donations and organize donors into categories/groups based on level of donation, frequency, etc.
  2. Set your lowest major gift level at this number or not too far away. For example, if I have several that give $1500 to the organization, I might want to push the envelope a bit and consider the lowest major giver at $2000 or $2500. You may even want to come up with creative names for each level. You will find that people love knowing they belong to a certain group when they give.
  3. Are there benefits associated with each level? Do your research and consider where you might be able to list their name or what you could offer them with giving a major gift.
  4. Do your research on that donor. Where do they work? Where else do they give? Do they have children? Are they on the board of an organization? Who do they know? Do they have friends or family that could also be potential major contributors? Look at their history of giving and appeals they gave to. Try to figure out what makes them tick….then set up a coffee/lunch and simply get to know them better. Finding out what motivates them to give and why is key for your organization.
  5. See step 3. I say this because asking for a major gift typically will not come after just one lunch or coffee. It takes time and patience.
  6. When you are ready to make ‘the ask’ determine if you have the right people at the table. Should the CEO or Executive Director be involved? Maybe a board member? Having the right people associated may help gently push the donor to writing that check!
  7. Recognize, thank, and keep in contact with these major contributors, encouraging them to move upwards from one category to the next.

Now that you know who your top donors have been in the past, you can better identify who these will be in the future. Your board is great place to engage potential major donors and having them be involved in identifying new people for your plan.

Reaching out to potential donors can be the most important step for obtaining major gifts. Each donor will be receptive to different approaches, so get to know the individual in depth before contacting them. Invites to volunteer on special projects, to take a tour of your organization or to an event you are hosting can all help to build a meaningful relationship with major givers and help them to see firsthand what their money can do.

Implementing a Major Gifts Program can lead to significant growth in your nonprofit and the value of these gifts should not be overlooked. Use our tips listed above to help start or grow your program today!