According to the 80/20 rule in fundraising, a small number of donors (typically around 20%) will provide the majority of your fundraising dollars (around 80%). These contributions are referred to as major gifts.

What constitutes a major gift will be different for every nonprofit. For one organization, a major gift may be $5,000. For another, the major gift threshold may be $20,000. Whatever the specifics look like for your organization, the importance of these large gifts cannot be overstated.

This is why your method for soliciting and securing major gifts matters. You’ll need careful planning and cultivation tactics backed by robust technology solutions to be successful. In this short guide, we’ll provide guidance on making technology-fueled improvements to your major gift fundraising strategy. Let’s begin.

Research major gift prospects.

Many elements of your major gift fundraising strategy require the use of a nonprofit constituent relationship management system (CRM), like Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT or Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud. A powerful CRM allows you to collect, store, and maintain information about current donors and prospects.

As you study your data looking for prospects, you’ll want to identify individuals who exhibit characteristics of a major donor. These supporters might be current donors to your nonprofit, friends or family of your current donors, or those who have contributed to similar missions. DonorSearch’s prospect research guide identifies some specific characteristics to look for, including:

Ability to Give

Ability to give, also known as financial capacity, indicates whether someone has the wealth needed to contribute a major donation to your nonprofit.

To determine a prospect’s ability to give, look for markers like:

  • Property ownership
  • History of considerable donations to political organizations
  • Stock ownership

These indicators give your team a good idea of which prospects are in a financial position to contribute a large donation, but they won’t tell you which are most likely to do so. That’s where willingness comes into play.

Willingness to Give

Willingness to give refers to indicators that measure whether a particular supporter has an affinity for your cause and a personal connection to your organization. These markers include:

  • History of giving to your cause in the past
  • History of giving large gifts to similar organizations
  • A strong connection to your nonprofit, whether they’ve been helped by your organization (grateful patient programs are an example of this), volunteered for an extended period, or have a strong relationship with someone in your organization

The key with prospect research is to determine which of your supporters exhibit a capacity for giving and willingness to give. Then, you can contact these prospects and start building a relationship with them that puts you on the road to soliciting a large gift in the future.

Track communications with major donor prospects.

Once you’ve identified potential major donors, the next step is to use your communication platforms and CRM to launch an outreach campaign that piques their interest and inspires them to give.

Your technology plays a key role in not only helping you get in touch with prospects but also helping you stay organized with your outreach cadence. This helps you avoid major faux pas like asking for a donation before having a strong relationship with a donor.

Use your CRM to maintain an updated log of all communication schedules and a record of past donor communications. Make sure your entire team is on the same page by:

  • Conducting an initial database audit. Ensure you’re starting with a clean dataset to avoid duplicate or inaccurate information that could bog down the process.
  • Developing standard data entry procedures. Train your team on a standardized process for entering information such as names, addresses, and phone numbers so that all of the data is uniformly organized. This will help down the line if you decide to use data warehousing to look at data from multiple sources.
  • Creating instructions for which moves need to be tracked. Devise a common procedure for which moves are tracked, who will monitor these moves, and how the information should be added to the system.

These strategies can help ensure you’re using your database to its fullest potential, maintaining accurate information throughout the donor cultivation process, and continually building trust with your donors. Make sure your fundraising team is trained on these best practices to avoid any missteps in the cultivation process.

Cultivate meaningful relationships.

Think of the major gift acquisition process like getting to know a new friend. You want to know more about your major donor prospects, and in turn, they want to learn more about your organization and figure out if they’re interested in getting involved with your mission. Through a series of different communication touchpoints, both sides can determine if they’re interested in maintaining the relationship.

To organize your approach to major gift cultivation, use your technology to:

  • Create a schedule with a month-by-month plan. Develop a calendar or spreadsheet you can share with your fundraising team that includes benchmarks for different stewardship activities. For example, perhaps the first month you’ll plan a face-to-face tour or video conference, then you’ll invite supporters to volunteer with a specific project. Continue with a series of other get-to-know-you activities until your prospect is prepped to receive a major gift ask.
  • Conduct outreach efforts over multiple channels. Sending the same messages on the same platforms to your prospective donors could quickly bore them, or worse, annoy them. Ensure you use a variety of platforms, such as phone or video chats, email, texts, and direct mail to keep them informed and interested. You can even automate emails or texts to send right after you hold meetings to keep your organization fresh on their minds.
  • Thank your major donor prospects throughout the process. You may be tempted to reserve any donor recognition activities until you’ve secured a major gift, but a simple “Thank you” during the cultivation process can go a long way in setting the tone of your growing relationships. For instance, after meeting with a prospect for lunch, you might send a thank-you email letting them know you appreciate the time they took to meet with you.

Your prospects will appreciate these thoughtful messages, and they’ll also appreciate not having their inbox flooded with tons of emails from your nonprofit. Ensure you’re using your communications platforms to not just create messages that resonate with your prospects but also make decisions about how often to be in touch. Overwhelming them with communications sets you back in your journey toward securing a major gift.

Determine the best donation amount to request.

You’ve spent time meeting with your prospects, getting to know their interests and motivations, and storing this information in your CRM along the way. You can now use this backlog of data to figure out the best way to make your gift request.

Here are a few different strategies for using your CRM to help make your ask:

  • Anticipate and prepare for your prospect’s questions ahead of time. Since you’ve spent considerable time getting to know this individual, try to predict the questions they might ask so you can have thorough answers. For instance, they may be curious about how to submit a gift or how your organization will use the money.
  • Prep customized materials for each major donor prospect. Even if you use templates for your major gift asks, you’ll still have enough information to personalize these templates to tailor them to each prospective donor’s preferences. This extra effort demonstrates that your organization values each prospect as an individual.
  • Offer a few different donation options. If a particular prospect has exhibited hesitancy to make a single large donation, you can offer the option to submit many smaller gifts over a longer period. This can provide the flexibility needed to persuade uncertain donors and also make giving more convenient, as you’ll prevent your prospect from experiencing decision fatigue.

Your prospects will appreciate the care and attention you put into personalizing your request to suit their needs and concerns. Plus, if you’ve done a great job developing these relationships, these asks are just a formality since your prospects are already all-in on your mission.

Bring on a consultant to optimize your technology stack.

Even if you follow each of the above strategies to a T, major gift fundraising is not a simple task. When you’re dealing with a massive database that may or may not be in the best shape, juggling multiple prospects at any given time, or preparing for a major initiative that requires several large donations, your major gift strategy can quickly feel overwhelming.

This is where a nonprofit consultant can help out! There are plenty of organizations that specialize in nonprofit strategy consulting that can help your team make the most of your fundraising technology. Technology consultants offer services such as:

  • Creating a campaign strategy to determine the best way to leverage your existing tech stack to complete your goals.
  • Offering customized support that takes into account your organization’s specific needs and the current tools you have available.
  • Training to get your team up to speed on making the most of your technology stack.

As you research consultants, look for firms that specialize in the software systems you’re already using. This can help you avoid having to add any additional solutions to your toolbox, maximize the tech you already have, and keep your bottom line in mind.

Major gift fundraising doesn’t have to be intimidating. With the right strategies and a powerful, well-organized CRM in your pocket, you’ll be able to tackle major gift fundraising effectively to build strong donor relationships and bring on more significant contributors to your mission.

If you need help along the way, nonprofit technology consultants can provide the extra expertise you need to take your major gift fundraising to new heights.