6 success factors for massive major gifts

A girl embracing the sun sits on an office chair on the top of a mountain

I cut my fundraising teeth in smaller shops.

I know all the challenges you face, because I’ve been there, right beside you, on the frontlines of fundraising.

I also know the incredible things that are possible when you start taking practical action to land big gifts for your great cause – even if you’re a smaller shop, or have a small fundraising team.

If you want to raise more 5, 6 or even 7-figure donations for your organization, there are six crucial success factors that will drive your success.

Even if you have an established major gift program, please read on – chances are there are places you can optimize your process (because yes, while it doesn’t sound sexy, sustainable major gifts are underpinned by a clear, replicable process!)

BTW, I’ll be taking a deep dive into each of these six success factors over the next few weeks, so if you’re interested in this topic, stay tuned…

1. A powerful pipeline

There’s a general misconception in fundraising that your next major donor is somewhere “out there” – far away, impossible to reach, and too busy naming the new hospital wing to be bothered with the likes of you.

Here’s the truth: if you’re going to be successful in major gifts, you need to start with those closest to you first.

As a first step, look closely at those supporters who are giving larger than average donations – depending on the size of your shop, it could be $1,000, $500 or even $250.

Another important clue can be found in a donor’s cumulative lifetime giving history, and the date of their first gift – many very generous supporters are long-time donors giving smaller monthly or annual gifts that add up significantly over time.

The most will always prioritize identifying people who are already engaged in your organization.

2. Irresistible giving opportunities

Working to raise unrestricted gifts in your major gift program is important for your organization – however, I’ve yet to see a truly successful major gift program built on unrestricted asks alone.

If you’re going to raise big gifts, you need irresistible, aspirational giving opportunities.

One way I love to start uncovering undiscovered opportunities is to ask the million dollar question.

If a donor called you tomorrow to offer you a 7-figure donation, what would you do with it?

This is a great question to bring to the leadership and board table to spark conversation, raise your sights, and get your organization thinking big.

3. Consistent donor connection

Whether you are initially qualifying a donor for your major gift program, or trying to reach a long-time major donor to book that elusive lunch meeting, being persistent and consistent in your connection with donors is key to your fundraising success.

If you’ve spent any time in sales and marketing, you’ve probably have heard of the Rule of 7.

It takes seven meaningful touches.

The same goes for major gift fundraising.

(That’s right - I am part of the sometimes maligned school of thought that believes great sales and great fundraising have more in common than not!)

But did you know the other important part of the Rule of 7?

Most people give up on reaching a prospect after trying 2 to 3 times.

Being persistent and consistent (in a courteous, donor centered manner, of course!) in your meaningful donor touches can put you way ahead of the crowd.

4. Specifically structured meetings

Have you ever left a donor meeting thinking, “what just happened?”

You had a nice lunch, caught up on what the kids and grandkids were up to, heard about their latest travel adventures, and gave them a little update on the program they support.

And the next thing you know, you’re picking up the tab and saying your goodbyes.

There’s nothing wrong with small talk, or program updates – done well, those can both be important elements in a donor meeting.

But getting more strategic about how you use your time in donor meetings can help take your relationships – and your major gift program – to the next level.

If you want to be more effective in your major donor meetings, I always recommend starting out by creating a plan in writing (for internal use, not for the donor) for every meeting.

Planning ahead and giving clear structure to your meetings can help you clarify your purpose in meeting with a major donor, and better understand what you’d like to achieve with this valuable time together.

5. Mindset mastery

Mindset is so important to successful major gifts, it probably should be right up there in the number one position – your mindset alone can make or break your success as a fundraiser.

I put it further along, because there’s a crucial time in the major giving process when mindset can most easily trip us up – even as experienced fundraising professionals.

That’s when it comes to asking for the donation.

Whether you’re afraid of asking, uncertain of when to ask, or rushing too quickly to the ask (because that’s a thing too!) it’s crucial to examine and understand your mindset, and address the limiting beliefs that may be holding you back from greater fundraising success.

6. A strong foundation for your next big donation

Did you land the gift? If so, take time to celebrate!

Then, start thinking about laying the ground work for your next donation.

Now is the time to map out a simple plan for your donor – when and how will you report back on the impact of the donor’s gift?

What are some of the opportunities to engage the donor in your work? How can you invite them “behind the scenes” at your organization, and draw them closer into your inner circle?

There are so many ways to show donors how much you care – while it’s great to leave a little room for spontaneity, you need a clearly mapped out donor stewardship plan, and the systems and infrastructure to support it.

Speaking of major gift success, I’m super excited to be launching something brand new this week – it’s an opportunity for us to work closely together to build a fundraising program that raises more 5, 6 or even 7-figure donations for your organization (even if you’re a smaller shop).

The Accelerated Major Giving Coaching Program is a structured one-on-one major gift coaching program, where you’ll build a customized step-by-step plan to get you taking practical action to land big gifts for your great cause.

During the program, we’ll delve deep into each of the 6 key success factors that are crucial to grow your major giving program – and you’ll learn the skills you need to start raising larger donations for your mission.

This three month program kicks off with an intensive strategy session, where I’ll work with you to analyze your fundraising program and donor base to identify the big untapped major giving opportunities at your organization.

We’ll build a practical action plan on our biweekly coaching calls – we’ll keep you accountable to your goals by reviewing what you’ve accomplished, what you’re working on, what you’ll do next.

At the end of the Accelerated Major Giving Coaching Program, you’ll have learned an effective, repeatable process for identifying, qualifying, cultivating, soliciting and stewarding major donors – and you’ll have the skills, knowledge and confidence you need to land a transformational gift for your non-profit’s important work.

Want to find out if this is a fit for you? You can get started by booking your free 45 minute Major Gift Strategy Session, and we can look at the challenges and opportunities that are unique to you and your organization.​

Emma Lewzey, CFRE is an award-winning fundraising expert with 20+ years experience raising over $100M across the arts, education, health and human services sectors. Find out how to raise more 5, 6 and 7-figure donations your non-profit - book your free Major Gift Strategy Session now.

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