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Identifying and Acquiring Major Donors

by Bryan Halverson
Header graphic for guide to identifying and acquiring major donrs

The impact of major donors is far-reaching. These donors often provide substantial funding that enables nonprofits to achieve unprecedented success, and they can significantly increase the chances of an organization reaching its fundraising goals.

Unfortunately, acquiring major donors is only half the battle. First, you must be able to identify potential major donors. Then you need to narrow down top prospects from that pool, cultivate relationships with them, and employ your donor development strategy.

This article explains what a major donor is, discusses how to identify major donor prospects, and shares recommendations for earning major gifts from top donors.

What Is a Major Donor?

Major donors come from different walks of life. They are parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, neighbors, and friends. They have one primary thing in common: they want to make a significant impact on the lives of others through an organization and/or cause they believe in.

The level of giving that separates major donors from other donors varies from organization to organization, but in simple terms, a major donor is an individual who makes a noteworthy or above-average donation that has a substantial impact on a nonprofit organization.

Ways to Identify Major Donors

Identifying prospective major gift donors can be a challenging and time-consuming task. However, organizations that invest adequate time in donor research and prospecting will often reap the rewards of increased funding.

Here are some proven methods for identifying potential major donors:

  • Leverage your donor database for major donor prospects – To effectively identify major donors, both philanthropic and wealth data should be utilized because that data provides valuable information about potential donors and their capacity to give.
  • Consider collaborating with a fundraising consultant – Fundraising consultants have experience working with organizations like yours, and they can help guide you through the maze of solicitations, gifts, and expenses that are part of a major gift program. They can help you create a plan and ensure you’re maximizing every opportunity for attracting new donors to your cause.
  • Dig deep into past giving trends – Past giving is an excellent indicator of future giving, and it allows nonprofits to evaluate a prospect’s historical propensity to give. This data also allows your organization to make informed decisions regarding how much to spend to efficiently reach them.
  • Leverage the wealthy connections of your board members – Board members are one of the most important assets any nonprofit organization has for fundraising success. Unfortunately, too many nonprofits fail to leverage the talents and resources of board members. All too often, they are simply used as a source of “warm bodies” for events, or as volunteers to help with mailing or filing. However, savvy nonprofit directors know board members are some of the most effective people for helping secure major gifts because they all have personal contacts with the people most likely to become major gift donors.

Tips for Acquiring Major Donors

The following strategies are great ways to attract major donors for your cause:

  • Start and maintain a major donor program – Most people love to feel like they are part of something exclusive and unique. This is especially true with many donors. Honoring donors with an exclusive program makes them feel appreciated and makes smaller donors want to find out what it takes to join the club.
  • Coordinate a special event tailored toward major donors – The mission here is to honor current major donors, not solicit donations. By honoring current donors and making them feel appreciated, you are sending a signal that your efforts are not all about the money, which may attract potential major donors to your organization.
  • Take the time to comprehend why current donors give to your cause – Asking your donors for feedback is an excellent way to let them know you value their opinion. Understanding your donors’ thought processes will also help with creating future acquisition strategies.
  • Be methodical in your approachCampaigns for major gifts take a lot of time and patience. The last thing you want to do is make a potential major donor feel pressured. Go into each solicitation with the expectation that it may take some time and diligence.

Tools to Help With Major Donor Acquisition

It is no secret that an important part of any fundraising strategy is having a solid donor management program in place. As previously mentioned, having the ability to quickly and easily separate large donors from small donors is crucial when crafting your major donor fundraising strategy.

Aplos has created a solution for nonprofit organizations that makes it easy and efficient to manage donors of all giving levels. Track donors and donations, improve engagement and retention, streamline your fundraising efforts, and much more.

See why over 40,000 nonprofits use Aplos for their donor management and fundraising needs.

Free Recorded Webinar: Creating, Building, and Maintaining Corporate Partnerships

Corporate partnerships are important because they can help your organization become more visible. Get to know and understand your community to learn what businesses are headquartered there. Do some research to figure out what kinds of organizations they are giving to, and which corporations might be a good partnership fit. Then build relationships with them similarly to how you would with donor prospects. And don’t discount local businesses. They can often be just as powerful as large businesses.

During this webinar, you will learn:

  • How to find corporate partnerships
  • Ways to look beyond just sponsorships
  • Stories of successful corporate partnerships with nonprofits
  • Tips for creating long-term relationships with corporate partners

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