Major Donor Fundraising: The Ultimate Strategy

Featured, Featured Beginner, Fundraising, Guides, Major Gifts

By Jeremy Reis

If you’re a nonprofit fundraising leader, then you know that major donor fundraising is essential to your success. But what is the best way to go about soliciting major gifts?

Though philanthropy has changed significantly in recent years, one thing remains clear: major donors are still the lifeblood of most nonprofits. Major gifts make up a substantial portion of fundraising totals at nearly every organization, and relationships with major donors are key to sustaining long-term success.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that so many nonprofits put such a huge emphasis on major donor fundraising strategies. But with so many different strategies and approaches out there, it can be tough to know where to start—or how to make your program even more successful. In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into everything you need to know about major donor fundraising, from its history and evolution to the challenges you might face and how to overcome them. By the end, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of this vital fundraising strategy—and you’ll be on your way to putting it into practice at your own organization.

Your Complete Major Donor Fundraising Strategy

  1. Who is a Major Donor?
  2. Major Donor Frequently Asked Questions
  3. Keys to Prospect Research
  4. Building Relationships with Donors
  5. Major Donor Cultivation
  6. How to Make the Ask
  7. Thanking Major Donors
  8. Secrets of High Performing Major Donor Reps
  9. Cultivating a Healthy Major Donor File
  10. Future-proof Your Donor File

For nonprofits, major donor fundraising is essential to keeping the organization running. But it’s not always easy to identify and cultivate relationships with major donors. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of everything you need to know about donor fundraising, from finding potential donors to soliciting gifts and cultivating relationships. With this guide, you’ll be able to effectively grow your donor base and secure the resources you need to keep your nonprofit running.

I have some good news and some bad news for you.

The bad news is that according to a recent study by bloomerang, 68% of nonprofits don’t have a major gift fundraiser. This means that they’re missing out on a huge opportunity to raise more money and make a bigger impact.

The good news is that I have a solution to this problem. I’ve put together a complete guide to setting up a successful major donor program and create a great major donor fundraising strategy. In this guide, you’ll learn how to identify major donor prospects, build a strategic plan, cultivate healthy donor relationships, and make the ask. You’ll also learn how to build a healthy donor file and the secrets of top major donor reps.

If you’re serious about raising more money for your nonprofit, then this guide is for you. Let’s get started.

Who is a Major Donor

A major donor is any individual or organization that provides a significant level of financial support to a nonprofit organization. Major donors typically give thousands or even millions of dollars to their chosen causes, making them a vital source of funding for many nonprofits. While some major donors choose to support a wide variety of organizations, others focus their giving on a particular issue or cause. Regardless of their approach, major donors play a critical role in the philanthropic sector. Thanks to their generous support, nonprofits are able to continue their important work and make a positive impact on the world.


Major Donor Frequently Asked Questions

As nonprofits seek to navigate these challenging times, one thing is certain: the need for major donor support is more urgent than ever. In this section, we’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions about major donors—including how to identify them, cultivate them, and steward them effectively. By following these best practices, you can ensure that your nonprofit remains afloat during these difficult times—and that you maintain strong relationships with your major donors for years to come.

How do you identify a major donor?

A major donor is an individual or organization that has the capacity to make a transformational gift to your nonprofit. While there is no hard and fast rule for determining who qualifies as a major donor, a good rule of thumb is that they should be able to give at least $10,000 annually. To identify potential major donors, you can start by looking at your current donor base and identifying those who have already made substantial gifts. You can also look at your list of prospective donors and prioritize those who have the capacity to make a major gift.

Why are major donors important?

Major donors are the lifeblood of many nonprofits. They provide a substantial portion of the funding that these organizations rely on to carry out their mission. In return, nonprofits offer donor recognition and access to exclusive events. Major donors also play an important role in shaping the direction of a nonprofit. Their input can be invaluable in setting priorities and making strategic decisions. As a result, major donors are essential partners in the nonprofit sector. Without their support, many organizations would struggle to survive.

How do you identify major donors in your donor file?

There are a few different ways to approach identifying major donors in your donor file. One is to simply look at the total amount given by each potential major donor over a certain period of time. Another approach is to look at the average gift size. For instance, you might consider anyone who gives an average gift of $500 or more to be a major donor. Finally, you could also look at the proportion of donor’s total giving that goes to your nonprofit. For example, someone who gives $5,000 to your organization out of a total annual giving budget of $100,000 would likely be considered a major donor. For many larger organizations, a donor who gives $10,000 or more in a year in considered a major donor.

Whichever approach you take, it’s important to remember that major donor status is relative. What qualifies as a major gift for one organization might not be considered as such for another. The key is to identify those donors who are making significant contributions to your nonprofit and then cultivate them accordingly. This might include things like implementing a stewardship plan or inviting them to special events. By showing appreciation for their support, you can build stronger relationships with these vital donors and ensure their continued generosity.

What do major donors want?

When it comes to attracting major donor support, the key is to remember that each donor is an individual with his or her own unique set of values, priorities, and interests. While some broad principles may apply to all donors, the best way to secure major gifts donor support is to tailor your approach to the specific donor you are tryinhg to attract. That means taking the time to get to know the donor and developing a relationship built on mutual trust and respect. It also means being transparent about how their donations will be used and demonstrating how their support will make a tangible impact on the lives of those served by your nonprofit. By taking a personalized approach, you can ensure that your nonprofit is meeting the needs of its most important supporters.

How do you cultivate a major donors?

The key to cultivating successful relationships with major donors is to treat them as individuals and not simply as ATM machines. These individuals may give large donations, but they’re just like any other donor – they want the outcome of what your nonprofit is achieving. Get to know individuals donors on a personal level and learn about their interests, passions, and motivations. Discover a new potential major donor through wealth screening and start developing a relationship with that generous donor. Find out what drives them and what they care about. Build a relationship with them based on trust and mutual respect. And always remember to say thank you! A sincere thank-you note goes a long way in cultivating relationships with major donors.

What is a major gifts officer?

A principal gifts officer is responsible for soliciting major donations and managing relationships with major donors. They typically work with donors who are able to give gifts that are worth $10,000 or more. In some cases, they may also be responsible for soliciting bequests (gifts that are given through wills or trusts).

The primary role of a major gifts officer is to cultivate relationships with potential donors and secure major gifts from these donor prospects. They do this by building rapport, understanding the donor’s interests, and crafting solicitations that align with those interests. A major donor rep also engages a prospective donor found through donor research to make a major donation. The role focuses on developing a major donor cultivation plan to move potential major donor to donate or give a planned gift.

In addition to their solicitation duties, principal gifts officers also play an important role in stewardship. They often keep in touch with major donors after they’ve made a gift, updating them on how their donation is being used and sharing stories about the impact it’s having. This helps to build deeper relationships with donors and ensure that they continue to support the organization in the future.

Do you need a major gifts officer, also known as a principle gifts officer? It depends on the size and focus of your organization. If you’re raising money for a small, local organization, you probably don’t need one. But if you’re raising money for a large, national organization, or one with a particular focus (such as healthcare or education), you might want to consider hiring at least one principal gifts officer.

Does my nonprofit need a major donor rep?

One of the most important decisions a nonprofit can make is whether or not to hire a major donor representative. Major donor representatives are responsible for cultivate meaningful relationships with the organization’s most generous donors. They typically work closely with the development team to develop and implement fundraising strategies, and they also play an important role in stewardship and donor recognition. While some nonprofits choose to forego a major donor representative, others find that this position is essential to their success. Some organizations have donor reps and have the executive director and development director carry a caseload as well. Ultimately, the decision depends on the size and needs of the organization. However, if a nonprofit is serious about soliciting large gifts, then it is worth considering hiring a major donor representative.

Should you use a donor database or CRM for major donor tracking?

A donor database is a software tool that allows nonprofits to track donor information. This can include donor history, phone calls, contact information, and giving patterns – including attributes that could be a wealth marker. A donor CRM is a more specialized tool that helps nonprofits to manage their relationships with major donors. Both donor databases and donor CRMs can be beneficial for nonprofits, but which one is right for your organization depends on your specific needs. If you’re focused on building relationships with your major donors, then a donor CRM may be a better option for you. However, if you’re simply looking for a way to track donor information, then a donor database may be all you need. Ultimately, the decision of which tool to use depends on your individual nonprofit’s goals and priorities.

What is a donor pipeline?

A donor pipeline is a system for tracking prospects from initial contact through cultivation and solicitation. By tracking prospects in this way, you can ensure that no opportunities are missed and that each prospect receives the individualized attention they deserve. As prospects move through the pipeline, they should be moved into increasingly larger pools of potential donors. For example, prospects who have shown an interest in your organization but have not yet made a gift should be placed in a pool of potentials. A generous donor who has made a small gift should be moved into a pool of prospects, and those who have made a transformational gift should be placed in a pool of VIPs. By placing prospects in these different pools, you can tailor your cultivation efforts to each individual and increase the likelihood of making a successful ask.


Keys to Prospect Research

The process of prospect research is vital for any organization looking to connect with major gift donors. By understanding who your ideal donor is, what motivates them to give, and how best to reach them, you can set your fundraising efforts on the path to success. Here are five key considerations for conducting effective prospect research.

1. Define Your Target Donor Pool

The first step in conducting prospect research is defining your target donor pool. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to be as specific as possible when identifying your ideal donor. Consider factors such as age, location, income level, past giving history, and charitable interests. The more specific you can be about who your ideal donor is, the easier it will be to find them. You may find major gift prospects among those giving small gifts and with the right donor stewardship, you can move them to the path to giving some of the largest gifts.

2. Understand Their Motivations for Giving

Once you’ve identified your target donor pool, the next step is to start understanding their motivations for giving. Why do they choose to support certain causes? What inspires them to open their wallets and write a check? Answering these questions will help you craft a compelling case for support that resonates with your donors’ interests and values.

3. Develop a Multichannel Approach

In today’s world, there are countless ways to reach potential donors. It’s no longer enough to rely on direct mail or face-to-face solicitations; you need to develop a multichannel approach that includes online and offline elements. Your website, social media channels, and email list should all be leveraged to reach potential donors where they’re already spending their time.

Another tool many charitable organizations use is a fundraising event. Major donor fundraising events are special events that are organized specifically for the purpose of raising money from major donors. These events are usually hosted by a nonprofit organization and feature a variety of activities that are designed to appeal to potential donors. Major donor fundraising events often include VIP experiences, such as behind-the-scenes tours or exclusive access to VIP lounges. donor gifts, such as signed memorabilia or limited-edition items, are also often given out at these events. Inviting existing donors to upcoming events is helpful to recognize a generous donor. The goal of major donor fundraising events is to secure large financial contributions from donors that will help to support the mission of the non-profit organization.

Want a deeper look at major donor fundraising events? Read our complete guide to craft a successful major donor event.

4. Ask Your Board Members for Help

Asking nonprofit board members to help you identify major donors can be a tough ask. But it’s an important one. By involving board members in the donor identification process, you can tap into their networks and broaden your donor base. Here are a few tips for making the ask:

  • Be clear about your goals. Explain why you’re asking for help and what you hope to accomplish.
  • Make it easy. Provide a list of potential donors, along with information about their interests and giving history.
  • Be specific. Ask board members to provide names, contact information, and any insights they have about the donor’s interests and giving capacity.
  • Follow up. Thank board members who provide helpful information and keep them updated on your progress.

5. Use a Data Aggregation Wealth Research Tool

Use a technology solution such as WealthEngine or DonorSearch to identify potential major givers. These solutions are powerful research tools that allows users to access detailed information on millions of individuals in the United States. The services provide users with an in-depth look at an individual’s assets, income, philanthropic giving history, and much more. This information can be extremely helpful when trying to identify potential major donors for your nonprofit.


Building Relationships with Donors

The relationships you build with your major donors are so important! These individuals give generously to your cause and without them, your nonprofit would not be able to function. Building positive, lasting relationships with major donors should be a top priority for all fundraising professionals.

1. Show Your Appreciation

One of the best ways to build a relationship with someone is to show them that you appreciate them. This is especially true when it comes to building relationships with major donors. Be sure to express your gratitude often and in a variety of ways. You can send handwritten thank-you notes, make phone calls, or even send personal emails. Whatever method you choose, be sure that your appreciation comes across as genuine and heartfelt.

2. Get to Know Them on a Personal Level

Your major donors are more than just generous people who support your cause—they’re people with their own interests, hobbies, and families. Getting to know them on a personal level will help you build stronger relationships with them. Take the time to learn about their interests and hobbies and see how you can incorporate them into your interactions. For example, if you know that a particular donor enjoys golf, invite them to play a round of golf with you or other members of your team. Or, if you know that another donor enjoys attending the theater, invite them to join you for opening night of the latest production at your local theater company.

3. Don’t neglect the small stuff.

When it comes to cultivating relationships with major donors, it’s important to remember the small stuff. Send a handwritten thank-you note after each donation, no matter how small. They don’t need to give a substantial donation to be appreciated! Make them feel like every gift is a transformational gift. Remember their birthdays and anniversaries. It’s the little things that show you care, and they’ll appreciate it.

4. Keep Them Informed About Your Work

Your donors want to know how their money is being used to further your cause. Be sure to keep them updated on your work, both through formal communications such as newsletters and annual reports as well as more informal communications such as social media posts and email updates. Keeping them informed will not only help build trust between you and the donor but also help foster a sense of ownership and investment in your work.

5. Ask for their input.

Major donors are an invaluable resource—not just for their financial support, but also for their wisdom and expertise. So don’t be afraid to ask for their input when you’re making decisions about your organization. Their insights can be invaluable, and they’ll appreciate feeling like they’re part of the process.

Building relationships with major donors is essential for any organization that relies on philanthropic support. By following these tips, you can create relationships that will last for years to come.


Major Donor Cultivation

Cultivating major donors is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process that requires time, effort, and a whole lot of relationship-building. Here are seven steps you can take to cultivate major donors:

1. Get to know them.

A good place to start is by asking your major donors why they give to your organization. What is it about your mission that resonates with them? What are their philanthropic goals? The answers to these questions will help you better understand your donors and what motivates them to give.

2. Build relationships.

Once you know what motivates your donors, you can start building relationships with them. Get to know them on a personal level. Invite them to events. Send them handwritten notes. Show them that you care about them as people, not just as ATM machines.

3. Keep them informed.

Your major donors should be kept in the loop about what’s going on at your organization. Share stories about how their donations are making a difference. Send them updates on your progress towards meeting your goals. Keep them informed and they will feel more invested in your success.

4. Meet them in person.

Donors typically prefer face-to-face meetings for a variety of reasons. First, it allows them to get to know the staff and leaders of the nonprofit, and to see first-hand the work that they are doing. Second, it provides an opportunity to ask questions and get more information about the organization and its impact. Third, face-to-face meetings build relationships and trust, which is essential for major donor relationships. Fourth, donors can use the meeting to assess the nonprofit’s commitment to its mission and its financial stability. Finally, donors can also use face-to-face meetings as an opportunity to give feedback and make suggestions for improvements. In sum, face-to-face meetings are an important tool for donor relations because they allow donors to get to know the nonprofit, build trust, and provide valuable feedback.

5. Ask for their feedback.

You should also ask your major donors for their feedback on a regular basis. What do they think of your latest fundraising campaign? Is there anything you could be doing better? Asking for feedback shows that you value their opinion and that you’re always looking for ways to improve.

6. Say “thank you.”

Always remember to say “thank you” to your major donors, both verbally and in writing. A sincere thank-you goes a long way towards cultivating relationships with major donors.

7. Make it easy for them to give.

Make sure you have systems in place that make it easy for your major donors to give transformation gifts, whether it’s online donations, recurring gifts, or planned giving options like bequests and charitable gift annuities. The easier it is for them to give, the more likely they are to continue giving generously year after year.

Major donor cultivation is an ongoing process that requires time, effort, and relationship-building. By following these seven steps, you can cultivate strong relationships with major donors that will result in continued support for your organization.


How to Make the Ask

You’ve done your research, you’ve cultivated relationships, and you believe you have a good case for why a major donor should support your nonprofit. Now it’s time to ask for a donation. Asking for money can be awkward, but there is a right way to do it.

When it comes to asking major donors for a donation, timing is everything. You want to make sure you are asking at the right time and in the right way. Here are some tips on how to timing your ask:

1. Research the donor’s giving history.

Look for patterns in when they give and how much they give. This will help you determine the best time to make your ask.

2. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the donor’s interests.

What are their passions? What motivates them? Knowing this will help you make your ask in a way that resonates with the donor.

3. Keep the ask specific.

Be clear about what you are asking for and how the donation will be used. This will show the donor that you have a plan and that their donation will make an impact.

4. Say thank you in advance.

Express your gratitude for the donor’s consideration before they even make a decision. This sets the tone for a positive relationship even if they choose not to donate at this time.

5. Shut up.

After you ask the donor for a major gift, learn to shut up and let there be silence. Some major gift officers try to fill every gap of silence when it’s best to let the donor think and respond. Don’t lose a gift because you can’t stop talking!

6. Follow up after making your ask.

Thank the donor again regardless of their answer and keep them updated on how their donation is being used if they do choose to give.

Asking major donors for a donation doesn’t have to be difficult or uncomfortable. By following these simple tips, you can ensure that you are making your ask at the right time and in the right way. Timing is everything when it comes to asking for money, so make sure you do your research and plan accordingly. With a little preparation, you’ll be able to confidently ask major donors for support and build strong relationships with them in the process.


Thanking Major Donors

As a fundraiser, you know that stewardship is important. You work tirelessly to cultivate relationships and secure major gifts from your donors, and it is essential to ensure that your donors feel appreciated. So, how do you properly thank a major donor?

1. First and foremost, be sincere.

Your donors know that you’re trying to raise money for your cause, but they also know that you wouldn’t be able to do it without their support. So, when you’re writing your thank-you letter, make sure that you sound like you genuinely appreciate their contribution.

2. Secondly, be specific.

Generic thank-yous are easy to spot and can come across as insincere. Instead, take the time to mention specific things that your donor has done that you’re grateful for.

3. Thirdly, don’t forget to say thank you more than once.

A lot of times, people will sign a big check and then never hear from the organization again until it’s time for them to renew their donation. But that’s not how it should be! You should aim to stay in touch with your major donors on a regular basis, whether it’s through email updates or personal phone calls. And each time you reach out, make sure to include another sincere “thank you” for their continued support.

4. Lastly, remember that there’s more than one way to say “thank you.”

A handwritten note is always appreciated, but there are other ways to show your appreciation as well. You could invite your major donors to an exclusive event or offer them a behind-the-scenes look at what your organization does on a day-to-day basis. No matter what form it takes, expressing your gratitude is always appreciated by those who have generously given of their time and resources.

Saying “thank you” is always important, but it’s especially crucial when it comes to thanking major donors for their contributions. By following these tips, you can be sure that you’re expressing your gratitude in a way that will be well-received and appreciated by those who have given so much of themselves to support your cause.

How to Write a Thank You Note to a Major Donor

Properly thanking your major donors is important to maintaining a good relationship as well as keeping them interested in supporting your cause. While a simple “thank you” is always appreciated, taking the time to write a more personal note can go a long way. Here are some tips on how to write a thank you note to a major donor that will show your appreciation while keeping them engaged.

1. Keep it short and sweet

A thank you note does not need to be pages long in order to be effective. In fact, shorter notes tend to be more personal and specific, which can often be more appreciated by the reader. Aim for around 3-4 sentences so that you can highlight what you are specifically thankful for without rambling on.

2. Avoid generic language

Generic phrases such as “we couldn’t have done it without you” are nice, but what impact do they really have? Instead, try to be specific about what their donation allowed you to do and how it helped your cause. For example, “Your donation of $500 allowed us to purchase new supplies for our after-school program” is much more impactful than simply saying “thank you for your donation.”

3. Use proper grammar and spelling

This one should go without saying, but it is important to proofread your thank you note before sending it off. A few typos here and there are bound to happen, but do your best to catch them so that your organization comes across as professional.

4. Make sure it is personalized

A great way to make sure your thank you note feels personal is by addressing the donor by name rather than using a generic salutation such as “Dear supporter.” You could also mention something specific about their donation or include a quote from someone who benefitted from their generosity.

5. Say thank you more than once

It’s perfectly acceptable (and encouraged!) to say thank you more than once in your note. In fact, studies have shown that people respond positively to hearing their name and feeling appreciated, so don’t be afraid to use these techniques multiple times throughout the note.

6. Sign it yourself

One final touch that will help make your thank you note feel more personal is if you sign it yourself instead of having someone else do it for you. This shows that you took the time write the note and adds a more human element to the communication.

By following these simple tips, you can easily write a personal and impactful thank you note that will show your major donors just how much their support means to you and your organization!


Secrets of High Performing Major Donor Reps

It’s no secret that major donor fundraising is essential to the success of any nonprofit. But what separates the best major donor reps from the rest? In this section, we’ll explore the secrets of high performing major donor reps and how you can become one too!

1. They’re skilled at building relationships.

The best major donor reps know how to build strong, lasting relationships with their donors. They take the time to get to know their donors on a personal level and always make sure to stay in touch. They also know how to ask the right questions and really listen to what their donors have to say. By building strong relationships with their donors, they’re able to create a deeper connection that lasts beyond just one transaction.

2. They’re experts at cultivation and stewardship.

Cultivation and stewardship are two of the most important aspects of major donor fundraising. The best major donor reps make sure to keep their donors updated on all the latest news and developments related to their cause. They also go above and beyond to show their appreciation for their donors’ support. Before any major contribution, a donor wants to feel heard and valued. Whether it’s sending a handwritten thank-you note or organizing a special event, they always find ways to show how much they value their relationship with their donors.

3. They’re great at soliciting donations.

Of course, one of the most important skills for any major donor rep is the ability to solicit donations effectively. The best major donor reps know how to ask for donations in a way that is respectful and considerate of their donors’ time and resources. They also make sure to explain how the donation will be used and what impact it will have on the cause they’re fighting for. By being transparent and clear about their request, they’re more likely to earn the trust—and ultimately, the support—of their donors. At its core, major gift fundraising is building relationships with individual donors to make significant impact.

4. They’re excellent communicators.

An essential part of being a successful major donor fundraiser is being an excellent communicator. You need to be able to clearly and effectively articulate your case for support. You also need to be a good listener. Active listening skills are important for understanding a donor’s interests and needs. Great major gifts officers aren’t afraid to make phone calls, even if they’re more likely to get a donor’s voicemail. The best major donor fundraisers provide consistent communication to their list of major donors.

5. They’re knowledgeable about their organization and its programs.

A top performer in any field is always knowledgeable about their area of expertise. The same goes for fundraising. To be an effective fundraiser, you need to have a deep understanding of your organization and its programs. You should be able to speak eloquently about how your organization is making a difference in the world. This is a vital role of the major gifts officer.

6. They understand the art of “the ask.”

Perhaps the most important skill for any fundraiser is understanding how to make “the ask.” Asking for money can be uncomfortable, but it’s something that all great fundraisers have mastered. When making an ask, it’s important to be clear, direct, and specific about the amount you’re requesting and what the funds will be used for.

7. They aren’t afraid to ask for high dollar amounts.

Another secret of high-performing major donor representatives is that they are fearless when it comes to ask sizes. They understand that donation amounts are not static; rather, they ebb and flow based on a number of factors. As such, they are not afraid to ask for larger donations when they know their organization needs it. This fearlessness usually stems from a strong belief in their organization’s mission; after all, if you believe in your cause, it becomes much easier to ask others to support it financially. The best donor reps know when to ask for transformational gifts, even if it’s among the largest donations a major supporter has ever given. These best MGOs known when to ask for a specific amount and when to ask for range from a donor.

8. They don’t take “no” personally.

It’s easy to take a donor’s “no” personally when you’re working hard to raise money for a nonprofit organization. However, it’s important to remember that a donor’s decision not to give is rarely personal. There are many factors that go into a donor’s decisions about how to allocate their philanthropic dollars, and it’s important to keep these factors in mind when soliciting donations. Major donors usually have many requests for their support, and they must carefully consider each request in order to make the most impactful gifts. Not every gift is going to be a large donation to your annual fund. Sometimes, a donor may say “no” simply because they don’t have the capacity to give at that time. Other times, a donor may feel that another organization is a better fit for their charitable goals. Whatever the reason, it’s important not to take a donor’s “no” personally and to remember that there are many reasons why a donor may choose not to support your organization.

9. They involve others in the relationship when necessary.

The best major donor representatives understand that this isn’t “their donor,” but that the donor is the organization’s donor. These reps involve team members, such as the executive director, in the major donor relationship to help develop a deeper relationship and explain the nonprofit needs in more detail.

If you want to be a high performing major donor rep, then these are the secrets you need to know! By focusing on building relationships, practicing cultivation and stewardship, and being great at soliciting donations, you can set yourself apart from the rest and become a top fundraiser for your nonprofit organization.


Cultivating a Healthy Major Donor File

A healthy major donor file is full of individuals who are passionate about your mission, have the financial capacity to give generously, and are interested in developing a long-term relationship with your nonprofit. Developing these types of relationships takes time, effort, and a lot of cultivation. Working with the best prospects are a key part of the cultivate process. But it’s worth it! Keep reading to learn how to cultivate a healthy major donor file.

1. Keep your major donor file up to date

One of the most important things you can do to cultivate a healthy major donor file is to keep your data up to date. Make sure you have the most recent contact information, giving history, and demographic information for each of your major donors. Keeping your data points up to date will help you ensure that you’re always communicating with your donors in the most effective way possible. This is especially true for major prospects. If you don’t yet know a lot about a cold prospect, data like real estate ownership, income, investments, and gifts to similar non-profit organizations to the size of your organization will help you understand people in your caseload.

2. Segment your major donor file

Another key to cultivating a healthy major donor file is to segment your data. Segmenting your data will help you customize your communications and better target your asks. For example, you might segment your data by giving history, so that you can send different appeals to donors who have given more vs. those who have given less in the past. Or, you might segment by geographical region, so that you can send regional specific communications. There are endless possibilities when it comes to segmenting your data – get creative and find what works best for you and your organization.

3. Communicate regularly with your major donors

Once you have segmented your data, it’s time to start communicating! The best way to cultivate a healthy relationship with your donors is to communicate with them on a regular basis – at least once per month, if not more often. When you communicate regularly, you stay top of mind and build trust with your donors. Make sure every communication includes a clear call-to-action and easy ways for donors to get involved and support your organization.

The annual report is a staple of the modern nonprofit. It provides a snapshot of the organization’s accomplishments over the course of a year and offers donor an opportunity to see how their contributions have made a difference. However, the annual report can also be used to cultivate major donors for your major gifts program. By taking the time to personalize the report for each donor, nonprofits can create a powerful tool for stewardship. Major donors are more likely to feel valued and further engage with the organization when they see how their gifts have been used. Additionally, including donor profiles or testimonials in the report can help to show potential major donors the impact of their support. With some strategic planning, the annual report can be used to nurture existing relationships and attract new major donor investments.

Cultivating a healthy major donor file is essential for any successful fundraising operation. By following the tips outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to developing strong relationships with the people who support your work financially. These relationships are the foundation of any great fundraising operation, so make sure you invest the time and energy necessary to cultivate them effectively!


Future-proof Your Donor File

Any nonprofit organization that relies on donor support needs to have a healthy pipeline of prospects. This is especially true for midlevel and major donor programs, which require a higher level of financial commitment. The key to success of your major donor strategy is to make sure that new prospects are continually being added to the donor funnel. There are a number of ways to generate new leads, including direct mail, online advertising, and personal solicitation. It’s important to try a variety of methods in order to reach the widest possible audience. Once you’ve generated a list of potential donors, it’s time to start cultivating relationships. The goal is to move prospects through the stages of awareness, interest, and commitment, with the ultimate goal of securing a major gift. By following these steps, you can ensure that your donor pipeline remains healthy and that your midlevel and major donor programs are successful.

One way to future-proof your donor file is to ensure you’re identifying, cultivating, and caring for the midlevel donors in your file.

A midlevel donor is a donor who contributes a significant amount of money to a nonprofit organization, but who does not give as much as the organization’s major donors. These are some of your top donors, even if they aren’t yet in your gifts program. You can’t look at these donors as smaller major donors, they often have a high giving affinity towards your cause. Midlevel donors typically contribute between $1,000 and $10,000 to an organization. While their contributions may not be as large as those of major donors, they are still essential to the health of many nonprofits. Midlevel donors help to provide stability for organizations by giving on a regular basis. They also often have stronger relationships with the organization than major donors, meaning they are more likely to remain loyal supporters over time. As a result, midlevel donors play an important role in the success of many nonprofits.

Midlevel donors are often cultivated over the phone. The phone can be your best friend or your worst enemy when it comes to fundraising. It can be a great tool for building relationships and asking for donations, but it can also be frustrating and alienating if not used correctly. Here are some tips on how to cultivate midlevel donors over the phone so that you can maximize your efforts and garner the most support possible.

1. Do Your Research

Before you even pick up the phone, you need to do your research. This means knowing who you’re going to be talking to, what their interests are, and why they might be interested in supporting your cause. Having this information at your fingertips will help you tailor your conversation and make a more personal connection with the donor. Additionally, research can help you conduct smarter asks by giving you an understanding of what the donor is able and willing to give.

2. Be Prepared

Once you have done your research, take some time to prepare for the conversation. This means having a script ready so that you know what you’re going to say, but it also means being prepared to deviate from that script as needed. The conversation should flow naturally, so be ready to answer questions and address concerns as they come up. Remember, the goal is to build a relationship, not just to ask for a donation.

3. Listen

One of the most important things you can do when talking to someone is to listen. This sounds simple enough, but it’s often overlooked in favor of trying to make a sale or getting off the phone as quickly as possible. Really hearing what someone has to say shows that you care about them and value their input. It also gives you valuable information that you can use during the conversation and in future interactions.

4. Be Gracious

No matter what the outcome of the conversation is, always remember to be gracious. Thank the person for their time, express excitement about any commitments they did make, and let them know how much their support means to you and your organization. Even if they say no or are uninterested, maintaining a positive attitude will leave them with a good impression of you and your work—which could pay off down the line.

5. Follow Up

Finally, don’t forget to follow up after the conversation! Send a thank-you note or email detailing how their donation was used or how their support made a difference. Keeping in touch will help solidify the relationship and make it more likely that they’ll want to support you again in the future.


Major donor fundraising is an essential part of any nonprofit’s success but it’s not something that should be taken lightly. By following the steps outlined above, you can be sure that your major donor solicitations are well-planned and executed successfully. Keep in mind that relationship-building is key; so take the time to get to know each potential donor before making your ask. And finally, don’t forget to express your sincere gratitude after they make a gift; it could result in even more support down the line!


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