Last Updated:

July 19, 2023

8 Major Donor Fundraising Strategies to Implement in 2023


Instrumentl team



July 3, 2023

Are you part of a nonprofit that needs to increase its annual donations?

Major donor fundraising can be a key source of revenue for nonprofit organizations. It involves the identification and cultivation of wealthy donors who are willing to provide large donations on an annual basis.

This article will provide an overview of major donor fundraising strategy options, their importance, and effective approaches to engaging major donors.

We will also discuss the importance of evaluating and adapting these strategies to ensure their effectiveness so that you can build long-lasting relationships with current and prospective major donors.

Nonprofit Donation Request Form Template (+5 Tips on How to Make It The Most Effective)

Overview of the Importance of Major Donor Fundraising


Implementing a major donor fundraising strategy has become an increasingly important part of the nonprofit landscape as larger donations are crucial for organizations to continue their work and impact.

According to Forbes, charitable giving from the United State's largest donors increased by 35% in 2022. Additionally, many organizations follow the Pareto Principle. The Pareto Principle states that “80% of a nonprofit's funding is contributed by only the top 20% of their donors.”

Major donors are critical to a nonprofit's mission for several reasons, as they significantly impact the organization's ability to achieve its goals and serve its beneficiaries.

Here's why major donors are so essential:

Substantial Financial Support: Major donors provide large financial contributions that can significantly boost an organization's budget. These funds enable nonprofits to expand their programs, reach more people in need, and invest in resources that improve the quality of their services.

Long-term Commitment: Major donors are often strongly committed to the organization's cause and may support the nonprofit over extended periods. This long-term financial backing helps ensure the organization's stability and allows it to plan for the future more confidently.

A Catalyst for Other Donations: Major gifts can inspire other supporters to contribute, creating a multiplier effect that increases fundraising success. When potential donors see that an organization has the backing of major donors, they may be more inclined to donate themselves, believing in the credibility and impact of the organization.

Strategic Investments: Major donors can help nonprofits make strategic investments in infrastructure, technology, or capacity-building. These investments can enhance the organization's efficiency, sustainability, and overall effectiveness in achieving its mission.

Advocacy and Awareness: Major donors can use their influence and connections to advocate for the organization's cause and raise awareness about its work. Their public support can attract additional donors, volunteers, and partners, expanding the organization's reach and impact.

Expertise and Guidance: Major donors often bring valuable expertise, skills, or experience to the table, which can benefit the organization. They may serve as advisors or board members, providing strategic guidance and helping to shape the organization's direction and priorities.

Legacy Building: Major donors can create a lasting impact on the organization and its mission through planned giving or endowment funds. These long-term financial commitments can ensure the organization's sustainability and continued success for years to come.

Major donors are crucial in supporting and advancing a nonprofit's mission. Their substantial financial contributions, long-term commitment, and influence help organizations expand their reach, enhance their impact, and create a lasting legacy of positive change in the communities they serve.

With this information in hand, organizations can develop targeted outreach campaigns that speak to their individual donor's interests and needs.

With the right system in place, organizations can reach their goals more efficiently and effectively while also cultivating relationships with potential future major donors.

Effective Major Donor Fundraising Strategies


Having effective major donor fundraising strategies is key to any nonprofit’s success.

In the following section, we will provide you with information on some of the most popular fundraising strategies you can implement at your own organization.

1. Hire a Major Gifts Officer

Hiring a major gifts officer or team is one of the most effective strategies for consistently securing major donations.

A major gifts officer would be responsible for cultivating relationships with key donors and leveraging those relationships to drive meaningful contributions. Most of their focus would be on securing large financial gifts to support the organization's mission and goals.

Here is a list of common key responsibilities for a major gifts officer:

  • Identify and research prospective major donors using various tools and resources like databases and donor management systems.
  • Develop and maintain a portfolio of major gift prospects and donors.
  • Create personalized cultivation and solicitation strategies for each prospect in the portfolio.
  • Build and nurture long-term relationships with major donors through regular communication, meetings, and events.
  • Collaborate with other fundraising staff and organizational leaders to align major gift efforts with the organization's overall fundraising strategy.
  • Prepare and present proposals to potential major donors, outlining their gifts' impact on the organization and its programs.
  • Track and report on major gift progress, including donor engagement, solicitations, and gift closures.
  • Ensure timely and appropriate acknowledgment and recognition of major gifts.
  • Provide ongoing stewardship to major donors, keeping them informed about the impact of their donations on the organization and its beneficiaries.

A dedicated major gifts officer can significantly benefit an organization by ensuring that major donors receive the attention and care they deserve.

This specialized role allows a nonprofit to have a dedicated individual that’s focused solely on cultivating and stewarding major donor relationships rather than splitting their time between various fundraising efforts.

2. Create a Major Donor Society

Creating a major donor society can be an effective fundraising strategy for nonprofit organizations.

A major donor society is made up of a special group of donors who have given above and beyond to support an organization’s mission.

Every nonprofit gets to decide what the financial threshold for their major giving society is, and donors become members of the society when they meet that donation threshold. The members typically donate in the form of a major gift or multi-year pledge.

Once accepted into the society, members receive exclusive benefits such as special recognition at events, invitations to donor-exclusive gatherings, and unique access to the organization’s leadership.

Other common membership perks include things like discounts on products or services, access to exclusive content, and recognition in publications. These benefits can incentivize donors to increase their gift size and become even more engaged with the organization.

For example, take a look at the Goodman Theater's Premiere Society for inspiration.

Goodman Theatre’s Premiere Society

By creating a society with ample opportunities for recognition and engagement, organizations are more likely to retain major donors while inspiring additional contributions from those who are considering making a major gift.

3. Keep Donors Informed on the Impact of Their Giving

One of the best ways to secure and retain major donors is to share with them how their giving is contributing to a larger impact.

When you keep donors informed on the impact of their gift, they will feel more connected to your mission and may be inspired to give even more.

For example, sharing success stories from your organization with major donors can help keep them engaged and ultimately encourage their ongoing commitment to your cause.

Habitat for Humanity does a great job of sharing participant stories on their website so that current and prospective donors can see just how life-changing their support can be.

Habitat for Humanity

By regularly providing real-life examples of how donor contributions are making a difference in the lives of beneficiaries, you’ll help donors feel personally connected to those impacts.

Additionally, regular updates on the organization's activities, financials, and goals can foster trust and confidence among major donors, demonstrating that their contributions are being used effectively and responsibly.

4. Start a Matching Gifts Program

For nonprofits, implementing a matching gifts program can attract larger donations and cultivate deeper relationships with major donors.

In a matching gifts program, businesses or corporations pledge to match their employees' charitable contributions to eligible nonprofit organizations up to a specified limit. By doubling or even tripling the impact of individual donations, these programs motivate donors to give more generously, knowing that their contributions will be amplified.

For nonprofits, adopting a matching gifts program can not only attract larger donations but can also foster stronger connections with major donors and corporate partners.

Moreover, matching gift programs provide an opportunity for businesses to showcase their dedication to corporate social responsibility (CSR). Engaging in such initiatives allows companies to align their brand with philanthropic efforts, enhancing their reputation among consumers, investors, and potential employees. This positive association can lead to increased customer loyalty, improved employee morale, and higher levels of trust within the community.

To maximize the benefits of a matching gifts program, nonprofits should actively promote it in their fundraising campaigns, highlighting the potential for donors to make an even greater impact through their contributions.

Matching gifts programs can be a powerful tool for nonprofits seeking to boost their fundraising efforts and deepen their connections with major donors and businesses. By leveraging the multiplier effect of these programs and fostering a culture of collaboration, nonprofits can drive meaningful change and make a lasting impact on the causes they champion.

You can see an example of a matching program by Coca-Cola here.

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Evaluation and Adaptation of Fundraising Strategies


Nonprofit organizations should regularly evaluate and adapt their major donor fundraising strategies to ensure their effectiveness.

To do this, nonprofits can track metrics such as the number of donations, donation amounts, and conversion rates (i.e., how many donors have become major donors).

Nonprofits can also track trends in donor behavior by measuring engagement with emails, mailings, and social media posts. This helps identify potential issues and improvement areas in their donor strategies.

Nonprofits can then use this data and donor feedback to adjust their approach. No two donors are the same, so organizations must focus on cultivating personal relationships to be successful.

Developing Relationships With Prospective Major Donors


Developing relationships with prospective major donors is essential to a successful major donor fundraising strategy.

Establishing strong connections with both current and potential major donors can ensure long-term support for the organization and its mission.

When interacting with major donors, it is important to recognize that they are not solely interested in giving money; they want to be engaged in your organization’s work and impact. Therefore, nonprofits should focus on developing relationships and creating meaningful connections with these donors—instead of only making an “ask” for donations.

To foster these relationships, nonprofits should create opportunities for meaningful interactions between major donors and the nonprofit’s board, staff, and the communities being served. This can be done through one-on-one meetings, conferences, and other events, or even virtual meetups.

Organizations should also have a plan in place for engaging with prospective major donors on an ongoing basis, including:

  • Regular updates about the organization’s mission and programs
  • Invitations to participate in special events
  • Personalized messages and thank you cards
  • Offering recognition for major gifts
  • A way to track giving history and preferences

Building relationships with major donors can help establish a foundation for long-term support and ensure that fundraising efforts are successful.

Wrapping Up: The Next Steps


Major donors are essential to the success of nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits should develop comprehensive major donor fundraising strategies that are focused on building lasting relationships with these key stakeholders.

Nonprofits should regularly evaluate and adapt their fundraising efforts to ensure they are meeting their goals. With well-developed strategies in place, organizations can secure support from major donors to help them advance their missions and positively impact the communities around them.

For more fundraising tips, insights, and resources, check out Instrumentl’s blog today.

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