How to Identify Major Donors: 4 Important Moves

Mar 21, 2019Message

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You want to identify potential major donors, but you aren’t sure exactly where to start. You need to know where to spend your time. You need funds now.

I remember meeting with a client desperate to raise more money to meet budget and program expenses. The client shared with me a long list of major donors. This list was impressive. The individuals, corporations and foundations on the list were a development director’s dream! But the giving levels were low. We knew these donors could give more, based mainly on their history of giving in the community.

I understand the overwhelm that comes with trying to raise more money. I see it as my job to give you a roadmap to set you on a path for success.

If I could go back 20 years and tell my newbie fundraiser self what to do, I’d cut right to the chase with these four steps.

1.  Love the Donors You Have

This is absolutely where you focus you time. Your top priority is to retain your current donors or advance them to an upper giving level.

Identify what level of giving constitutes a major donor. Is it $1,000, $2,500, $5,000, $10,000? If you are small shop or a new organization, a major donor may be defined as those giving $500 or more. Decide so you know where to focus your time and energy. This is your opportunity costs. Focus on where you will benefit the most in how you spend your time cultivating donors. 

Create your list of top (major) donors. Look over that list and make sure these current donors know how much you value and appreciate them.

Remember, it cost at least five times more time and money to acquire new donors than to keep the ones you have. Love your donors!

2.  Upgrade Consistent Donors

Consider donors giving consistently to your organization for three years or more. Their consistency in giving lets you know they believe in your work and the mission. They have told you so with their pocketbook. Get to know these donors better, engage them, and know their passions.

3.  Retrieve Lapsed Donors.

Before looking for new donors, retrieve lapsed donors. They supported you at one time. Why did they drop off? Maybe they forgot to give. They had the envelope on their desk or your website opened but were distracted.

There are several logical reasons a supporter did not give from one year to the next. It is your job to discover why. If they are upset or disappointed in something, you need to know. Contact those donors. Make that right a wrong. Get them back into giving again.

4.  Identify New Donors

Seek your board’s input when identifying new donors. Board members have tentacles in the community. They have personal relationships and know whose passion would align with the organization’s mission. They know those with the means to give. They know who is philanthropic.

Focus on identifying individual, corporate, and foundation leaders.

Read here the 3 Most Important Criteria When Identifying Your Ideal Major Donor 

Bringing it all Together

Develop a top 100 list (or a manageable sized list) so you know where to focus your time and energy. Again, focus on where you will benefit spending your time. I suggest being intentional with a major gifts program. 

Getting started need not be complex and complicated. Follow these four steps. Make it a part of your process when identifying potential major donors.

What are ways you might identify a prospective major donor list for your organization?

Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides overwhelmed nonprofit leaders of small organizations with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at [email protected].

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