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Bill Scott “Major Donor Program 101”

Major Donor Program 101


I don’t care what size your organization is, a major donor program is something every non-profit must have.


I can hear your response now, but Bill we don’t have large donors.  I would like to challenge that idea and say yes you do.  A major donor is different for every organization.  For some, a major donor might be a $500 gift.  For others it’s $1000 and yet other it might be a $5000 gift or higher.  If you are receiving donations, you have major donors.  Tell me the biggest gift you receive; that’s a major donor.


Perhaps you have heard this phrase bounced around.  90% of donations come from 10% of the donors.  For most non-profits, major donations are the backbone of their fundraising. 


So what’s involved in starting a major donor program at your organization?


Get a board of advisors to help you with this. It can be a small board of people who have great networking in your community.

Decide what a major gift is in your organization.

Perform a prospect screening from the donors you already have. My guess is you’ll be surprised that there are major donors hiding in your very own database.  Mark those donors once found in your database so you can email and write to them with different content than the rest of your donors.

Begin to call your major donors from time to time, even if it’s just to say thank you for your support. Also sending a handwritten thank you card can really impact a major donor in a positive way.

Find creative ways to ask a major donor in a very personalized way. One on one is always the best way.

Remember the A, B, C and perhaps D of fundraising. ) Identification, B.) Development, C.) The ask, D.) Stewardship.  This is the cycle you can use for your major gift fundraising cycle.


This is no doubt the very basics of beginning a major donor program.  Don’t be afraid to start small.  I think you would be surprised at how many non-profits just wing it with their major donors and of course by doing that you are leaving money on the table.


As it is with any donor, relationship is king. You should make time for a phone call, personal email, send a small gift, go for coffee, lunch or even a golf game.  Find the love language of your major donor and meet it.  Make sure they realize how special they are to your ministry.


As of a couple of years ago, 58.87% of non-profits do not have a major gift strategy.  One of my good friends hired a full-time development director after being on the air for decades.  He told me that his development director more than paid for himself in just one year.  Loving on your major donor has a huge effect on your bottom line. 


I’ve kept today’s article very simplistic so anyone can begin a major donor program.  My challenge to you is to begin one this week.  Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.  There is still time to make 2019 a great year for your organization.  


Bill Scott – Chief Content Officer, Vidare Creative / www.VidareCreative.com. Contact Bill at bill@vidarecreative.com

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