Major Gift Success: 7 Secrets Every Fundraiser and Board Member Should Know


Your organization is seeking major gift success, right? So let’s look for the actual major gift secrets that will bring you success.

Amy Eisenstein ACFRE

Amy Eisenstein ACFRE

Most nonprofit leaders are confused and not sure where to focus in order to create major gift success. It’s a complex undertaking. But it’s clearly where the money is!

Amy Eisenstein ACFRE shared with my INSIDERS the results of a major new research study that she conducted with the world’s foremost academic fundraising guru Dr. Adrian Sargeant.

This study reveals the major gift success secrets that smart fundraisers know.

We finally have research-based data giving us exactly the success factors for major gift fundraising.

What successful organizations do. What it takes. Where they invest.

Here are 7 secrets that successful major gift programs KNOW will bring them success.

IMPT: This study covers organizations UNDER $10M budgets – which are 95% of the registered nonprofits in the US.

And thanks to Bloomerang and DonorSearch for funding the study!

1. Do invest in training development staffers.

Research shows that for every additional hour of training you give fundraising staff, you can expect an average additional $37k in major gifts.


Should I repeat that?

All training such as webinars, courses, conferences – they all pay off. Handsomely!

Take away: Don’t eliminate staff training unless you want to see your major gifts go down.

2. Don’t let your fundraising staff leave.

Research shows that for every additional year a development officer stays on staff- they can expect to raise an additional 6.5 major gifts.

That’s real money, folks.

Take away: If your staff asks for a new title or a raise, consider the money you’ll lose next year if they leave.

3. Do keep the size of your major gift portfolio small.

Research shows that many organizations with only one person working on major gifts should take on only 20-30 prospects.

Many organizations have less than one full time person dedicated to major gifts.

If you tackle more than that, you’ll dilute your effort, and you will not be as successful.

Take away: Narrow, narrow, narrow down your focus. Always.

4. Do spend money on wealth screening.

Research shows that organizations who invest in this low-cost technology raise significantly more major gifts.

One INSIDER commented during Amy’s webinar yesterday that she paid $3,000 for wealth screening, and closed a $100k gift as a result the next year.

That’s my kind of payoff! :)

Take away: This is money well spent! Amy recommends the wealth screening firm DonorSearch.

5. Do invest the time if you want major gift success.

Research shows that the #1 reason organizations don’t raise major gifts is not investing the time.

You need to draw a line in the sand about what you WILL do!

How many calls will you make a month?

Take away: Create a development team for yourself. Find an accountability partner who will help you stay on track!

6. Do engage your board members and volunteers in fundraising.

Research found that when board and volunteers are engaged in helping with identifying, cultivating, asking and stewarding prospects, the organization raises significantly more money.

Alas, board and volunteer engagement in fundraising was found to be disappointingly low.

We all know that board members are nervous about fundraising because they think it’s all high pressure, hard-ball “asking.”

They are not familiar with the gentle, longer term cultivation process required for major gifts.

Take away: Start educating your board members about the major gift fundraising process. They are often quite interested in learning how it all works. Start there and they’ll warm up!

(Bring me in for a board retreat and we can have fun and fire them up!)

7. Do build a culture that supports philanthropy throughout your organization.

Research found that when everyone in the entire organization felt responsibility for stewarding donors and supporting the fundraising team, then much more money flowed in.

Organizations with major gift success:

  • Share names of potential donors across the organization
  • Treat their donors as important assets and friends
  • Consider donor stewardship to be everyone’s responsibility
  • Seek meaningful donor involvement activities

Take away: It starts with educating all staff about what’s involved in fundraising success. Then you need to adopt an attitude that we value and honor our donors at all times. :)

BOTTOM LINE on Major Gift Success

Pretty interesting stuff, don’t you think?

Where does YOUR organization stand in mastering these major gift secrets?

Use this data to PROVE that investing in certain areas yields a specific financial payoff from major gifts.

This post is a great start for an important discussion. You can do it, I know!

Leave a comment for Amy and me and share your thoughts!