10 Tips for Increasing Major Gifts

“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Yes, they have more money.” Earnest Hemingway, rejoinder on hearing the Fitzgerald quote

Out of all the fundraising strategies, major gift fundraising is the most cost effective technique in the resource development plan. Usually, raising dollars from large donors requires very small dollar outlays outside of a few dinners or lunches and inexpensive marketing outreach. But major gift fundraising doesrequire a lot of relationship building.

During the last month of the year, wealthy people usually check with their accountants and investment advisors to figure out how to reduce their tax liabilities through financial contributions. In addition, the emotional appeal for helping people usually peaks during this time of year so it’s an excellent opportunity to solicit major gifts.

The process of raising gifts from major donors should start at the beginning of the year not at the end. Throughout the year, you should be consistently honing your individual donor strategy on each one of your major prospects/donors.

Are there specific strategies you can use to bring in these major donors at year-end? Why of course there are!

  1. Identify what constitutes a major donor and treat these individuals with TLC. Your major donor prospects can be those at the $10,000 level or the $1,000 level depending on the size of your organization and your budget.
  2. Each year target a certain number of major donor prospects (maybe 10 or 20) and design a cultivation strategy where you have at least three to six “touches” (phone calls, meetings, visits) with them prior to the actual ask.
  3. We have two eyes and only one mouth in order to listen rather than talk. It’s important when meeting with major donors to listen carefully to what turns them on and what they like about your organization.
  4. Generally, major donors are interested in certain giving opportunities such as capital campaigns, endowments, and special programs or projects. See if the donor wants special recognition for their gifts (such as naming rights or a plaque). You can also raise dollars for the annual campaign from major donors.
  5. Call donors who have given a gift in December before. Invite them out to lunch or dinner and bring the president of your board or a board member whom they know and respect to the meeting. Decide before the meeting who will be doing the ask.
  6. Encourage a major gift through the year-end newsletter and other marketing materials but do not actually ask for the money this way. Make sure the major gift “ask” is done in person.
  7. Ask your board members to call major donors and thank them for their support. In addition, have a letter signed by the board president (with a personal note attached) thanking the major donor for their help.
  8. Remember private foundations are usually major donors so make sure you do a personal thank you in December for their support during the year.
  9. Consider organizing “giving societies” where you develop different benefit packages at different levels of support.
  10. At the end of December, or early January, have an evaluation session where you look at what has worked, what has failed, and what changes need to be made in major gifts for the next year.

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