A major donor fundraiser at a charity is tasked with securing large donations from existing and new supporters. Not all charities employ major donor fundraisers, also known as big gift fundraisers or major gift fundraisers, but a growing number are recruiting for them, given the good return on investment that they can provide.
Many charity recruitment agencies report a growing demand for experienced major donor fundraisers, and especially those with a good track record.
Why large donations?
Charities, universities and other not-for-profit organisations have always received large donations, from wealthy benefactors in the Middle Ages through to today’s successful business people. Many charities, keen to increase their income from this source, have applied business methods to identifying prospective major donors and making an appropriate ask of them.
Large donations matter to charities and to the whole charity sector.According to NCVO and CAF, an estimated 45% of the total amount given to charities in 2009/10 (around £11 billion) came from just 7% of all donors. Major donors therefore are a vital element to many charities’ activities in the UK.
For more information on how your charity can benefit from large donations, please call 0845 094 8033 or go to www.majordonors.co.uk
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Major Donor Fundraiser | How large is a large donation?
This will depend on the organisation, the quality and number of its donors. As a result, each charity will have its own definition of a major gift in terms of monetary value. Some charities distinguish between a major gift and a high value donation. Others talk in terms of a transformational gift – one that helps transform the charity or a particular project.
So, the minimum for a major gift could range from £1,000 to perhaps £50,000. Add Gift Aid to these sums and you will see that a major gift can become an even more substantial gift to charities.
Major donor fundraisers require a range of skills and experience if they are to maximise income.
They must engage in prospect research, or at least manage a prospect research function, in order to identify major gift prospects from the charity’s existing donors, and from other contacts, such as business contacts of the charity’s trustees. This will often involve matching the charity’s donor database with external data that indicates wealth, such as share ownership and company directorships. A number of agencies offer this kind of wealth screening to highlight high net worth individuals (HNWI) on a charity’s database.
They must be able to build relationships with prospective and actual donors over the phone, in writing and in person. They will also need to be able to ‘seal the deal’ with major donors: not all fundraisers are able to close a £1 million or more donation.
They will need to develop or follow policy and ethical guidelines as part of the major donor fundraising function. The level of research that goes into identifying a high net worth individual can be substantial so how this data is recorded, used and protected is paramount.
They will also need to manage and develop an effective stewardship programme to sustain support from major donors. Some major donors will give one big gift in their lifetime, but others will give more than once.
By staying abreast of trends in major donor philanthropy they will need to forecast major donor income, and determine trends in terms of acquisition and retention of major donors.
At larger charities they will have to manage a team carrying out some or all of these activities.
Major donor fundraisers will sometimes work on a capital appeal. This is a one-off major appeal by a charity, usually for a major project such as a new building. This will usually involve a private phase of fundraising in which a small number of ‘lead donors’ will each commit to giving a major gift. The public phase of the campaign then encourages others to support this initial activity.
Various organisations provide training to major donor fundraisers. These cover the areas ranging from prospect research and solicitation through to making the ask and then ongoing stewardship of major donors.
Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp.