Finding Major Donors: 5 Steps for Your Nonprofit

Aug 26, 2020Identify Major Donors

Finding-Major-Donors-5-Steps-for-Your-Nonprofit Identify Major Donors

Do you have trouble finding major donors? Do you find it challenging to build a pipeline of donors?

As a fundraiser, you want to always be growing your potential major donor list and finding major donors. 

Whether you are a new or small organization or one around awhile, you need donors who can make large gifts to your organization. 

In fact, you are not making the best use of your time and not reaching your fundraising potential if you are not asking for major gifts.


Finding Major Donors is Where to Spend Your Time

Most importantly, listen to this: Bloomerang continues to report that 88% of total dollars raised comes from 12% of donors. Even so, AFP’s Fundraising Effectiveness Report states that 76% of gifts come from 3% of donors.

So where should you be spending your time?

With a decrease in events, consider using your time right now to build a major gift fundraising system and pipeline of major donor potentials. It’s easy. All it takes is being intentional. 


Finding Major Donors in 5 Steps

You can find major donors with these five steps. Let me show you.

#1 Know the Three-Point Criteria for Identifying Ideal Major Donors

First, a donor must be passionate about your cause. They must have given some indication they believe in your mission and how you are addressing the problem or need.

For example, maybe a person shares in a casual conversation their daughter is an artist and they love to collect works of art from local artists. 

If you are an arts organization, put this person through the three-point test! They have a love and appreciation for the arts! 

Certainly, you don’t have to know potential major donors well or know them at all. How to draw them in and engage them is for us to discuss at a later time!

Second, a donor must have the means to give. Certainly, recognize there are donors out there with the capacity to make a significant contribution.

Third, a potential donor must be philanthropic. Just because someone is wealthy or can make a major gift, does not mean they are philanthropic. Absolutely, look for philanthropic behavior in people.

#2 Create a Potential Major Donor List  

Considering the three-point criteria, you want to list potential major funders so you know where to focus your time and efforts.  

A. Your database.

Most definitely, I can tell you almost every fundraiser is overlooking a potential major donor right under their nose — in their database. In looking at your database, consider who is passionate about your cause, has the means to give, and is philanthropic —-but has not given a capacity. 

B. Frequency of giving.

Indeed, review a list of those who have given consistently over three to five years. Certainly, they may have missed a year – that’s ok. Their frequency of giving signals they believe in your mission. Furthermore, put them through the three-point test, and consider adding them to the list — even if they have not made a major gift before. 

C. Your board as major donors.

Without question, many board members are major donor candidates and are not giving at capacity. Treat them like you do any potential major donor – they want to be courted, considered, and asked for their support. 

That’s how you start creating your list of potential major donors. 


#3 Look at other Nonprofit Donor Recognition Lists 

Yes, look who’s giving to other nonprofits. Certainly, be researching who is giving to organizations with a mission similar to yours. You are missing out if you are not scanning donor lists.  


#4 Look to Social Media 

Additionally, consider who is engaging on your social media pages with friends’ posts, or with activities that align with your mission. What topics are people sharing, liking, and commenting on that indicate their values and beliefs? Are they aligned with your mission? 


#5 Share your List with Board Members 

And finally, share your newly created potential major donor list with your board members. Also, share the three-point criteria so board members understand the criteria in identifying major donors. You want to seek board members’ input in who else should be on this list. Later, you will identify ways to engage people.


You can Find Major Donors

In summary, consider your opportunity costs. If you are focusing on low revenue-generating activities, you are giving up high dollars somewhere else. No doubt, you want to focus on major gifts and have a list of potential funders. 

Take these five steps to find major donors and create a list of potential funders. 

How easy is that? 

You can do this. 

Above all, you can find major donors to help you meet your budget shortfall and advance your mission.

Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at nancy@nancyrieves.com.


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