Getting started in major gift fundraising can be tough, especially for organizations and fundraisers who have never cultivated and solicited a large gift.

This primer to major gifts combines data from our own survey of more than 700 nonprofits and advice from top major gift fundraisers in North America. Use the data below to create an effective strategy!

Raw Data:

  • 58.87% of nonprofits do not have a major gift strategy
  • 53.37% of nonprofits consider multiple major gifts to be absolutely vital
  • 67.54% of nonprofits do not have a dedicated, full-time major gift fundraiser
  • 43.74% of nonprofits define a major gift as greater than $1,000
  • 35.90% of nonprofits define a major gift as greater than $10,000
  • 75.32% of nonprofits say a lack of investment on their part (manpower, expertise, strategy, etc.) is why they don’t do major gift fundraising
  • 88% of total dollars raised comes from 12% of donors

Anatomy of a major gift donor:

  • Already in your donor database
  • Has a deep passion for your mission
  • Has been giving to your organization for five years or more
  • Has the financial capacity for a major gift
  • Is a current or former board member or volunteer

Five things to look for during prospect research:

  • Previous giving to your nonprofit
  • Giving to other nonprofits
  • Participation as a foundation trustee
  • Federal political giving
  • Real estate ownership

Metrics you should track for success:

Activity Metrics >>

  • Actions (phone calls, letters, etc.)
  • Moves management plans created
  • Appointments set
  • Appointments kept
  • Number of personal visits
  • Percentage of unique visits
  • Asks made
  • Acknowledgements sent
  • Assists/shared credit

Constituent Metrics >>

  • Total prospects
  • New prospects
  • New referrals
  • Moves
  • Ask pipeline (donors) by stage
  • Ask pipeline (dollars) by stage
  • Status change
  • Gifts secured
  • Gifts declined
  • Ask/decline ratio
  • Pledges paid

Making the ask:

  • At least 18-24 moves to cultivate
  • Ask in person
  • Ask for a specific dollar amount
  • Tie it to a project (avoid undesignated asks)
  • Say thank you, even if the answer is “no”