3 things to do before starting your major gift program

By Amy Eisenstein, CFRE

Is your small nonprofit considering a major gift program? Good – you should be! For one thing, major gift fundraising is much less expensive than holding events or sending bulk mail (though you should continue doing both, in addition to your major gift efforts). And for another, it's possible to start a solid, successful major gift program in only five hours a week.

Before you can start going out and soliciting three, four, or five-figure gifts, though, there are three steps you need to take first to make sure your major gift program will succeed:

  1. Get your donor information in order and into a database.
    Capturing donor information and history in an organized way is one key component to successfully raising major gifts. Here's the minimum information you need to have about your donors to start: their name and complete contact information, their giving history (dates, amounts), and exactly what they give to (your work with children vs. your adult services, for example, as well as what campaigns they responded to). Whether you have the capacity to invest in fundraising software or need to rely on a basic database application – you'll be far less stressed and far more effective once you've completed this step!
  2. Start creating a culture of philanthropy at your organization.
    A “culture of philanthropy” covers a wide range of things, the most important of which is recruiting and training a board of directors that is willing and able to both give and get gifts. Some sample steps in this process include creating a donor expectation form and including fundraising discussions and trainings at all of your board meetings and retreats. You can continue this process while working on your major gift campaign – but your major gift campaign will almost certainly fail unless at least a substantial minority of your board members are fully engaged.
  3. Create your stewardship plan.
    Before you start soliciting major gifts make sure you have a plan in place to insure your donors are thanked multiple times by multiple people at your nonprofit. Who will make the first post-gift thank you call? Who will sign and write personal notes on your thank you/tax receipt letter? It's also a good idea to have your thank you letter drafted and approved before your first donor meeting – that way you will be able to send it quickly after the excitement of receiving your first major gift!

Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, is an author, speaker, coach and fundraising consultant who’s dedicated to making nonprofit development simple for you and your board. Her books include '50 A$ks in 50 Weeks', 'Raising More with Less', and her current Amazon bestseller 'Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops'.

Special offer: Be one of the first 100 people to purchase 'Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops' between 6 am - Midnight on Tuesday, March 18 and receive free access to Amy's webinar, The Art of the Ask (a $129) value.

Get copies of Amy's free eBooks here. Stay tuned for a fantastic GiftWorks webinar with Amy Eisenstein coming this Spring!

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