There are many ways your nonprofit can raise money for its cause, from launching peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns and hosting events to asking local businesses to sponsor your work.

But one of the greatest sources of nonprofit revenue is major gifts, which are the largest individual contributions your organization receives. In fact, nonprofits typically find that 80% of their revenue comes from just 20% of their donors—their major donors!

Of course, what constitutes a major gift will vary based on the size and scope of each individual organization, but the importance of these gifts is the same across the board. Without major gifts, you wouldn’t be able to do nearly as much for your mission.

To effectively tap into major donor fundraising, you’ll need an airtight approach. In this post, we’ll dig into four surefire strategies that will help make your major donor fundraising efforts more effective. Let’s get started!

1. Assemble a major gifts team.

For your organization to be more intentional about seeking out and securing major gifts, you’ll need to start a major giving program. You may start your program by assigning a team member to serve as your lead major gifts officer to oversee it, but over time you can (and should!) expand your team to include more officers.

As you consider who to assign or hire to your major gifts team, consider individuals’ levels of fundraising experience. You’ll need major gift officers who are comfortable with conversing one-on-one with major donors and who aren’t afraid to make big asks.

As far as what your major gifts officers can expect from the job, typically, they will be responsible for:

  • Handling initial outreach to prospective donors after they’ve been identified through prospect research (more on this below!)
  • Communicating regularly with major donors and major giving prospects
  • Compiling and adding to major donor prospect profiles
  • Presenting appeals to prospects
  • Following up with donors to maintain strong relationships

To help your major gifts team excel in its efforts to fundraise, provide regular opportunities for your team members to fine-tune their skills, whether that involves role-playing conversations with major donors, attending conferences, or leveraging free online training. Keeping your major gift officers’ skill sets sharp will pay off as they’re able to strengthen relationships with your major donors and pull in more donations.

2. Conduct prospect research.

According to DonorSearch, prospect research, also known as prospecting, is “a technique used by nonprofit fundraisers, major gift officers, and development teams to identify high-impact donors within and beyond an organization’s current donor pool.”

Any type of nonprofit can use prospect research to look for new major giving prospects. You just need the right tools, like your organization’s CRM, SEC investment records, FEC political contribution records, and a prospect research database. You can also use artificial intelligence tools that make specific recommendations about which prospects are most likely to donate in a given period.  However, many nonprofits opt to hand this process over to an experienced prospect research consultant, as these experts understand the ins and outs of navigating prospect research tools and make the process more efficient for your organization.

Using the tools listed above, you or your consultant can identify prospects who have both capacity (wealth) and philanthropic (warmth) indicators that suggest they may be interested in giving a large gift to your organization. Here are some examples of both types of indicators so that you know what to look for:

  • Capacity Indicators
    • Real estate ownership
    • SEC transactions
    • Business affiliations
    • Political giving history
  • Philanthropic Indicators
    • Previous donations to your nonprofit or other similar organizations
    • Nonprofit involvement history
    • Hobbies, interests, and values

Once you’ve found a prospect with both philanthropic and capacity indicators, you can be confident that your major gifts team should start reaching out to them and building a relationship. To add another layer of confidence, consider employing donor qualification as part of your strategy. This step can help you be sure that you’re investing your time and resources in the relationships that will lead to the most benefits for your nonprofit.

3. Educate your donors about matching gifts.

Do your major donors know about matching gifts? If not, you could be missing out on extra money for your mission!

Matching gifts are a form of corporate philanthropy in which employers match, dollar for dollar, their employees’ charitable contributions. Some employers match at a 1:1 ratio, 2:1 ratio, or even 3:1 ratio. However, many donors don’t know whether they’re eligible for matching or not.

Make sure to educate your major donors about matching gifts and help them check their eligibility through a matching gift database. Once a donor knows they’re eligible, they can submit their gift-matching information to their employer and essentially have their donation doubled without reaching back into their wallet.

You can make this process even easier by partnering with a matching gift database provider that offers auto-submission capabilities. With this feature, donors only have to provide their work email address, and then their match information is automatically submitted to their employer. As a result, your nonprofit receives the match faster!

4. Take steps to build lasting relationships.

Your major gifts team’s first priority should be to build lasting relationships with current major donors and prospects. To grow your major giving program (and, consequently, your nonprofit as a whole) in a sustainable way over time, you’ll need your major donors’ continued support, not just one-time donations.

Here are some ways you can grow genuine relationships with your donors and prospects:

  • Regularly update donor and prospect profiles. According to DonorSearch, donor prospect profiles can be extremely helpful during the donor cultivation process, as your major gift officers will rely on them for all the details they need to craft their outreach strategy and make donation appeals. You should think of these profiles as living documents and update them when you receive new information about an individual. You can also use them as a place to make notes about each interaction you have with a prospect or donor. In this way, your profiles can function as a definitive guide to every individual prospect or donor and help you remember critical information about them.
  • Invite donors to get involved in different ways. One of the best ways to deepen your donors’ involvement with your organization is to invite them to participate in your work in ways other than donating. For example, perhaps you know of a donor who would love to join your volunteer program or advise your board on financial decisions. Inviting donors to deepen their involvement can help them feel more connected to and invested in your work. Plus, it provides them with opportunities to use their skills and talents in a fulfilling way.
  • Demonstrate impact to your major donors. Major donors want to know that the gifts they’re giving your nonprofit matter. Report back to your major donors on what you’re using their contributions for, whether that’s strengthening an after-school program they’re passionate about or purchasing new supplies for your soup kitchen. When donors know that their gifts are making a difference, they’ll be more inclined to give again!

Genuine relationships with major donors are critical for the health of your nonprofit’s major giving program and your fundraising efforts. So remember to engage in thoughtful conversation to understand your donors as people first. Donations and other types of involvement will follow.

Major donor fundraising is vital for nonprofits, but getting your major giving program started or refining it can be challenging. Use these four strategies to begin to make improvements that will help you pull in more donations and continue to fund your mission over time. Good luck!