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Developing a Major Gift Program for Your Nonprofit

It is possible to build a major gift program from scratch for your nonprofit.

A major gift program can take root if you have these things:

  • An annual appeal from a donor database with 20 – 30% who are giving at least once, preferably twice a year.
  • A Board of Directors with a few members who know your community and are well-networked.
  • A senior staff member who knows how to formulate and then execute a sensible development plan.

Convene a meeting of your Board members who are connected.  Print a copy of your donor list on a spreadsheet with giving history over last three years.  You can include donor names or code them in some way, but be sure to collect these worksheets after the meeting.  Let those present know what you’re doing and why:  Your donor database is one of your most valuable assets and should be treated in a secure and a confidential manner.

Ask those gathered to scan the list for names of people they know, or, people they know have a special connection to your mission, or who are connected to a person they know.

Staff then work to formulate a targeted plan of communication and social activities for these prospects.  The idea is to move them up the donor pyramid and get them interested in making significant annual gifts (what’s the right number? $1,000?  More?  Less?).

Oh.  Be sure you’re clear on the purpose for this major gift campaign.  What exactly is it that your nonprofit needs to do that this campaign will make possible?  Who will prepare the case for this campaign?   How will it be introduced?  When along the friend-raising portion of this effort will be the right time to introduce the ask?

Build it and they will come.

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