6 Major Gifts Fundraising Strategies To Try This Year

If you’re looking to improve your major gift fundraising strategies this year, we’re here to help with new tactics to build and strengthen relationships.

As a development officer, you know how important major gifts are for a nonprofit—up to 90% of your fundraising revenue likely comes from just about 10% of your donors. To keep your major gifts program strong, you’ll want to find new ways each year to provide major donors with experiences that keep them engaged with your work.

If you’re looking to improve your major gift fundraising strategies this year, we’re here to help. Below are six ways to get creative with your major gifts fundraising to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones.

Download: Donor Cultivation & Stewardship Plan Template

1. Send Informal, Personal Correspondence

People’s mailboxes and inboxes are already inundated with promotional materials. Sometimes glossy reports or professionally designed marketing materials can get overlooked in the pile. One way to stand out is to swap formal outreach for something more personal.

Your major donor may connect more with a handwritten note thanking them for their support, checking in, and letting them know you’d love to get together soon to share more of your work. Doing so humanizes your connection and shows an extra level of care.

Even if you don’t send handwritten notes, you can still personalize your letters or email appeals to donors by giving them program updates that are written specifically to their interests. You can start your letter by mentioning how you remember they showed interest in a particular initiative you were starting that year, so you wanted to personally let them know how it’s going.

You can also include some tidbits in your outreach that show an interest in the donor’s life. Based on information from your last correspondence with them, you might ask them how their vacation went or send well wishes for their child who is starting kindergarten that month. 

It’s tempting to send your best marketing materials to major donors, but sprinkling in informal, personal correspondence along with these materials can deepen your connection with them. They’ll leave the lasting impression that encourages further engagement with your nonprofit’s work.

2. Offer Multiple Giving Options

Major gifts don’t have to be traditional cash donations. In fact, major donors may prefer to give in other ways to take advantage of different tax benefits and estate planning opportunities. 

By highlighting the various options majors donors have when making a gift, you invite them to support your work in whatever way is the most accessible to them. Offering multiple giving options may even encourage them to donate a larger gift than they would otherwise if giving cash.

Here are a few options to remind major donors of when they’re making a gift:

  • Real estate: Major donors can gift land, commercial buildings, or residential properties to receive tax deduction advantages and avoid capital gains taxes. Donations can either be for your nonprofit to use the space or for the value of the property.

  • Stocks: Stocks are another giving option that allow donors to avoid capital gains taxes. Major donors can offer your nonprofit publicly traded stocks, mutual funds, treasury bills, bonds, or stock in privately held businesses.

  • Qualified charitable distributions from an IRA: After turning 72, people are required to withdraw minimum amounts from their individual retirement accounts (IRAs). If that minimum amount is more than an adult needs for their living costs, they can choose to provide tax-free gifts from their IRA to nonprofits.

  • Donor-advised funds (DAFs): Major donors may set up DAFs for tax savings and growing their money specifically for charitable donations. These investment accounts are opened for the purpose of giving to nonprofits, so they make for a great resource to tap into.

  • Planned giving: Some major donors may not be ready to give a large gift now, but may want to plan to do so as a part of their legacy. You can talk to major donors about planned giving options, where they’ll formally decide to give a certain amount of their estate to your nonprofit upon their passing.

3. Create a Major Donor Community

Having a strong sense of community can be a powerful force. Leverage this force among your major donors by establishing a special community just for them. You can create specific branding around the community and give it a name, such as the Circle of Givers or something unique to your cause.

Organize activities where this group can get together to socialize, volunteer, and share ideas about how to support your nonprofit. These can be networking happy hours, family picnics, monthly meetings, or any other number of meet and greets.

By fostering a sense of identity between major donors, you can encourage them to join forces to meet ambitious fundraising goals. They can act as cheerleaders for one another, have a little healthy fundraising competition, and spearhead matching gifts to fuel your other campaigns.

4. Hire a Major Gifts Officer

If you’re wanting to expand your program but are a one-person show at the moment, it may be time to grow your team. While many nonprofit staff wear multiple hats, major gift programs take a lot of time and resources. Having a specific major gifts officer ensures you’re giving enough attention to cultivating your major donors and not letting key stewardship moments slip through the cracks.

Some of the tasks a major gifts officer can help with include: 

  • Implement a strategic plan for identifying and cultivating new major donors
  • Create personalized donor stewardship plans for each individual major donor
  • Track donor stewardship activities in your donor management software’s database
  • Coordinate with program staff to organize special events for major donors
  • Update board members and stakeholders on fundraising progress

5. Invite Major Donors to a Volunteer Event

When you think of major donors, you might think you need to organize only formal, higher-end events for them—gala dinners, sit-down lunches, cocktail hours, and the like. However, more casual events or opportunities to volunteer provide major donors with key connections to your mission. They offer experiences that are authentic to your nonprofit’s culture.

Help donors feel like part of your community by inviting them to tour your nonprofit and get a sense for what a day in the life of your staff looks like. You can also let them see the impact of your mission first-hand through a volunteer event. Depending on what your mission is, this could be a litter pick-up, after-school tutoring, or cooking a meal for residents of your emergency shelter. These stewardship moments are likely to stick with your major donors, encouraging their future gifts.

6. Engage Your Board Members

If you’re looking for new major donor prospects, put your board members to work! Tapping into your community, especially board members who already have a stronger commitment to your mission and success, can uncover new supporters looking to help take your work to the next level.

Here are a few ways to leverage your team:

  • Ask board members to bring a friend to your next fundraising event 
  • Have your major gifts officer interview each board member to learn about valuable connections they may have
  • Host brainstorming sessions with your board to identify key prospects for specific initiatives
  • Tap into your board members’ connections with their employer for any potential corporate sponsorships.

With a little direction and encouragement, you can turn your board into a major gifts development powerhouse.

Try New Major Gifts Fundraising Strategies This Year to Increase Giving 

If you’re looking to reinvigorate your major gifts fundraising program this year, it can help to choose one or two new strategies to try. Creative stewardship methods and donor prospect approaches can strengthen relationships with your current major donors while growing new ones with prospective supporters.

Use the six tips above as a launching point for how to best increase the effectiveness of your major giving program.


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