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  • Appealing to Major Donors: 3 Tips for Major Gifts Officers

Your nonprofit undoubtedly implements many fundraising ideas to help you generate the revenue necessary to power your mission. If your organization struggles to reach funding goals despite hosting many events and managing multiple campaigns, it could be a sign that you need to focus on major donors. However, interacting with and soliciting major donors is daunting—how do you convince a major donor to give you their support?

If you’re looking for strategies for connecting with major donors, you’re in the right place. Let’s look at three tips for appealing to major donors. With the right strategies, you’ll be in a great place to secure the largest gifts your nonprofit has seen, greatly deepening the impact you can make on your beneficiaries.

1. Set the groundwork for authentic relationships.

Cultivating major donors is an extensive process that usually involves a dedicated team of major gift officers. Before making an ask, start by forming an authentic relationship with a potential major donor to foster trust and confidence in your nonprofit and increase the donor’s connection and commitment.

Here are a few ways you can build authentic major donor relationships:

  • Research their interests. After identifying a major donor prospect through wealth screening or other prospect research, look further into their interests, giving history, and personal backgrounds. You can do this by searching the prospect online, combing through your existing donor records, looking at social media profiles, viewing public records, and more.
  • Discuss their philanthropic goals. Book a time with the potential major donor to discuss their interests and philanthropic goals via phone call or in-person meeting. This will help you better understand the donor, why they give, whether they’ll be interested in supporting your nonprofit, and how they’d like to do so.

To help with relationship-building, you can develop major donor personas that lay out general guidelines for connecting with individuals most likely to support your nonprofit with a major gift. You may even invest in a solution that allows you to do this more effectively—for instance, an AI fundraising tool may help you pinpoint prospects and even recommend the next steps for engaging them.

2. Personalize your solicitation approach.

To maximize your chances of successfully soliciting a major gift, personalize your approach to each specific donor. Here are a few factors you should keep in mind when putting together your major gift solicitation materials and how they’ll change your strategy:

  • Interests and values. If the major donor’s interests intersect with your nonprofit’s programs, initiatives, or goals, mention that in your solicitation efforts or ask the donor if they’d like to support a specific program. For example, if your animal shelter nonprofit is starting a program to rehome kittens and a major donor has expressed that their favorite pets are cats, you might reach out to this donor to ask if they’d be interested in donating.
  • Philanthropic goals. Major donors give for various reasons, from making a lasting impact on a cause to leaving a legacy to building relationships. Align your solicitation efforts with the donor’s goals. For instance, a major donor who expresses interest in leaving behind a legacy may be a great candidate for a large planned gift.
  • Giving history. Although major donors may possess more funds than the average individual, there are still limits to their ability to give. Take a look at the prospective donor’s giving history to get a better idea of how much funding you can request from them.
  • Preferred recognition methods. Although donors usually don’t give with the expectation of receiving something in return, they all deserve recognition for their generosity. Due to the size of a major gift, major donors usually appreciate a grander show of recognition. This could mean adding their name to your donor wall or inviting them to an exclusive nonprofit event after-party.

Relationship-building doesn’t stop after a gift has been made. Keep major donors in the loop by regularly sending them personalized communications on what their gift helped your nonprofit achieve. Do this through their preferred communication channel, whether that’s email, text, phone call, or something else.

3. Offer meaningful engagement opportunities.

Steward your major donors by offering them meaningful engagement opportunities with your nonprofit’s mission. You can also provide these opportunities to major donor prospects who are on the fence about giving or use them to re-engage a major donor who hasn’t given in a while.

Here are a few ways to stay connected with major donors:

  • Invite them to exclusive events. Exclusive events are particularly appealing for donors who give with the goal of networking and forming relationships with others. For those who live further away from your nonprofit’s headquarters, offer hybrid fundraising events they can attend virtually to stay involved.
  • Create a major donor society. Make major donors feel good about their generosity by creating an exclusive major donor society. According to DonorSearch, this allows major donors to feel like they’re a part of a unique community, especially if you offer perks such as appreciation luncheons and giveaways. Plus, you’ll be able to incentivize future major gifts as well.
  • Ask them to be a board member. Inviting a major donor to be a board member for your nonprofit is a significant ask that should be reserved for individuals who have already expressed a strong interest in your nonprofit. This engagement opportunity allows the donor to participate in your organization’s governance and shape your nonprofit’s future, cementing the relationship.

If you’re feeling uncertain about staying meaningfully connected with your major donors, Elevate recommends checking out more resources (like books!) to learn new techniques to engage these individuals. You can even collect ideas by directly asking your existing body of major donors how they prefer to interact with nonprofits.

Whether you need funds for your next capital campaign, an urgent initiative, or a new program, it’s worth it to solicit major donors for their support. Though it may be time-consuming, the funds you’ll receive will be well worth the effort—you’ll have an easier time meeting your fundraising goals and making the impact you desire on your beneficiaries.

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