Love Song to My Major Gift Prospect List!


I’m admitting it. I’m warped.

Maybe it’s weird or something but I just love my major gift prospect list.

And I love the hunt to find lovely, generous, wonderful major gift doors.

I love deep reconnaissance, finding out what’s in a prospective donor’s heart and mind.

I love hearing these generous donors’ own personal stories.

And I just love figuring out how – just how – can I develop this person to become a passionate donor.

It’s so much fun to me!

But let’s look at the down side of Major Gift Prospect Lists:

What happens if you DON’T have an up-to-date Major Gift Prospect List?

Whoops! You don’t have a plan.

There’s no master list anywhere that you use to keep track of everyone and everything that happens  with your prospects.

You don’t have any systemized way to figure out what to do next.

If these people are not rated and qualified, then you have no way of knowing how to set priorities.

  • Should you have coffee with the lovely widow who lives down the street?
  • Or should you focus on your board chair’s golfing buddy who is president of the local bank?
  • Or what about the retired journalist your board member keeps mentioning to you?

So what happens? You go here, there and yonder, spreading yourself too thin.

You waste your travel budget. You never focus on anyone long enough to really get to know them and ready them for an ask.

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No prospect has a systematic followup plan because you are always on the road calling on people, too busy to file call reports or plan thoughtful next steps.

If your boss asks you, what’s your fundraising pipeline look like, you can’t respond!

Not only that – you are exhausted AND you DON’T raise your goal! :(

So why don’t you join me in singing a love song to our Major Gift Prospect Lists?


Because finally we are organized. We have, in one place, THE list of folks who have the potential to change the world at our organizations.

Your Major Gift Prospect List tells you tons of juicy information on one simple sheet of paper.

You can see – in one glance – exactly what you have to work with.

It tells you how much financial potential from major gifts might be available to your organization. (nice!)

It’s your portfolio.

It’s your work plan. Your road map.

It’s your work LIFE in a way for the next few months.

It’s also an exciting place of possibility and vision – because it represents what’s really possible for your wonderful nonprofit.

I love to rate and rank the names of potential donors on my list – over and over.

For example, I’m constantly asking myself things like this:

  • Is this executive really a potential million dollar prospect?  Or should we focus more on a smaller gift from him?
  • Might this lovely older lady be our big investor? I know she loves our cause. What can I do to make her even happier with us?
  • Should we approach this foundation again so soon? One of their board members is on our team and can help us. What could they give?

When I was a staff fundraiser I used to be thinking about my top prospects all the time.

I’d be saying to myself, what can I do today to make them love us even more?

You need to be thinking about YOUR top prospects all the time too!

You need to know WHO they are.

You need to constantly evaluate them for their giving ability and their interest level.


Your Major Gift Prospect List will take the fuzziness out of the major gift fundraising process. (and make your boss happy.)

My boss, the Dean of the Business School, would sometimes wonder if I was just out there socializing around.

Before he and I developed our Major Gift Prospect List, we felt that sometimes we were just shooting from the hip.

We were GUESSING at who to see and when to see them.

Then we did the HARD WORK of analyzing our true potential, and ranking potential donors for their financial capacity and their interest level.

After, our list was our guide that we consulted and revised regularly.

And my boss knew, when I was out of the office, that I was spending my time at its highest productivity.

AND, he knew how much money we were working on raising, and how far we were from closing the bigger gifts.


Your Prospect List is your essential tool for raising major money for your organization.

Keep it fresh and keep it alive. Use it regularly and you’ll raise more money!

How are YOU doing with your own prospect list?

Leave a comment and let me know!