Major Donors are Changing – 5 Trends to Watch


What’s going on these days with the most generous donors of all?

How are they changing? What are their expectations of us? What do they really want?

Do you ever wonder…How can I reach them? How can I appeal to their big hearts, and develop warm and trusting relationships with them?

Today, to help you nail your next major gift, here are 5 critical major donor trends to watch.

Major Donors Are Less Trusting

Across the board, there is a steady decline in trust of society’s institutions, including nonprofit organizations. This emerging distrust carries over to your major donors, who are generally wary about how NGOs are using their money. recently reported that,

“About a third of Americans don’t trust charitable groups to spend their funds well, and more than 60% of people globally don’t have faith that groups can accomplish their missions.”

According to a recent Fidelity study, more than 8 in 10 donors say they have concerns about how their donations will be used and if their gifts will really make a difference. This is huge!

This means that:

  1. Major Donors are going to make gifts to institutions they know.  (Fidelity found that 71% of grants went to charities donors had previously supported.)
  2. They expect to know who YOU are. Your donors want to get to know you, and to find out how you make a difference.
  3. They are influenced by your brand and visibility. Investing in your brand probably pays off handsomely because it establishes you as an organization of note.

You can also:

Build trust with your major gift prospect via one of their own friends, or one of your existing donors who can attest to your organization’s impact.

Major Donors Are Giving to “Credible” Organizations

When we add “seals of approval” to our site and materials, we will raise more money.  A recent, fascinating study found that nonprofits who earned Guidestar’s Seal of Transparency gained an average of 53% more contributions a year later!

If Major Donors want to see us demonstrate credibility, then we need to tackle this topic seriously. (See Trend #1.)

This means that: 

  1. When you publish endorsements from government officials and community leaders, you can also demonstrate credibility.
  2. You can include ratings from Charity Navigator, Better Business Bureau, or Guidestar to establish trust and credibility.

You can also:

Publish the names of your board members on your website, so donors can see who stands behind your organization. (I’m always surprised by the number of nonprofit who do not do this!)

Use infographics to demonstrate your reach and impact. Talk about awards or recognition achievements your organization has received. All these things matter to those who give.

Major Donors Are Concerned About Making an Impact

We’ve seen this trend growing over the past decade – donors are increasingly focused on making an impact with their giving.  

Fidelity found that 65% of wealthy donors would give more IF they knew the impact of their donations.

(See Trends #1 and #2 above. I think we have an issue here!)

This means that: 

To me, this is the biggest obstacle holding giving back. We have a huge inability to clearly, succinctly explain to donors how their gifts are making an impact.

You can also:

Encourage donors to designate their gifts so they can see a direct impact.

Many studies have shown that people will often give MORE if you let them designate their gifts. 

Even if someone makes an unrestricted major gift to “operations,” they understand why and what that will achieve.

Major Donors are Getting Wealthier 

The West is experiencing an economic boom, and new wealth is being generated all over the world. Clearly, the pie is getting bigger.

Take heart because those who feel more financially secure will give more.

This means that:

There is more money in play to give to charities these days.  And, the wealthy are holding many kinds of assets.

You should be alert to: 

Assets outside of cash. Remember, only 1% of wealth in the US is held in cash according to Russell James. This is the secret source of gifts many fundraisers ignore.

Major Donors Are Making More Gifts

Contributions from donors at the top of the income scale have increased significantly in the past 10 years.

 For example, gifts from households earning $200k or more comprised 30% of all charitable deductions. Yet, in 2017, these gifts accounted for 52% of all deductions.

This means that:

You need to be investing in major gifts! :)

You can:

  1. Educate your board members about how major gift fundraising works. Show them how they can help.
  2. And join our major gift coaching program for 2019 to make sure your organization nails major gifts that are out there for you – we will be closing out our 2019 class soon!