Part 3 in a 3-Part Series for Small Non-Profit Organizations: How Do You Get Started in Major Gifts?

In my first two posts where I’m talking directly to small organizations, I covered how to get started, how to structure the program, and how to make the time to work on major gifts when you’re pulled in so many directions.

Today, I want to write about growing pains. The good kind. The kind when you would still consider yourself a small non-profit, because your donor base is growing, but you’re seeing more large gifts coming in, you can’t manage it yourself, and it’s “feeling” like you need to hire your first front-line fundraiser.

Yes – congrats!

But how do you take that “feeling” and turn it into facts so you can make the case to your Executive Director or your board? Let the data tell you.

Here’s how: Determine what you consider a major gift. For our purposes here, Richard and I like to use $1,000 cume in the last 12 months. But you could go back to 24 months if the donor has a longer history of giving with your organization. (Remember what I mentioned in a previously post though… what you consider a “major gift” may be different and that is okay!) If you have 450 donors that meet your criteria, whatever that is, you have enough donors for one full caseload of 150 qualified donors and, therefore, can justify hiring a full time front-line fundraiser.

Now you might say, “Wait, I thought I had 450 donors? What happens to the other 300?” We know from experience of working with hundreds of organizations over the years, that, on average, only 1 in 3 donors want a more personal relationship with the organization.  Therefore, it takes 3 times the number of donors that meet a metric to actually end up with your caseload.

Now, another factor to consider is value of the caseload. Let’s say you only have 300 donors that meet your major gift criteria and you know you’ll only end up with 100 donors, you can do some quick math to see what the average revenue per donor is for those 300 donors and multiple that number times 100. IF you are in the $250,000-$300,000 (or more) range of total revenue, you can make the case to hire someone full time to build that portfolio. So, while you might start out with a 2.5 to 3.5 ROI (ROI = Total revenue divided by total cost to cultivate), you will be able to grow it to 6 to 8 ROI in 3-4 years.

I know when you hire your first front-line fundraiser it’s scary because you’re worried about the cost. I get it. But you have to overcome that to understand that major gifts is a long game. It’s important to keep in mind that the value you are losing each year, because you don’t have a dedicated fundraiser working with donors, likely exceeds the cost of bringing someone on. Addressing value attrition is a core part of the role of an MGO and worth the investment.

To give you some comfort, I wanted to share some results from smaller organization we’re working with who partnered with us just as they were starting to build their major gift programs. One organization has a single MGO who had a $300,000 portfolio value. In the first year after qualification, they were able to grow by 37%.  Another organization has three MGOs, each raising $300,000 initially. They were able to grow 80% in the first year after completing the qualification process!

Having a disciplined major gift program using The Veritus Way works! And these are the kinds of results we have seen over and over for hundreds of organizations.

Okay, you’ve gotten the go ahead to hire. Now the hard part… finding the right fundraiser. Here’s the number one thing that person needs:  A great attitude! Attitude over aptitude every time. You can teach and coach the other things, but a great attitude is about what is engrained already in that person.

Outside of attitude, here are the important skills and qualities you also want to look for:

  • Donor-Centered
  • Know Program Content
  • Strong Verbal & Written Communicator
  • Strategic Solicitor & Closer
  • Kind
  • Active Listener
  • Present
  • High Emotional Intelligence
  • Curious
  • Proactive
  • Persistent
  • Restless & Achievement-Oriented
  • Seeks Accountability
  • Collaborative
  • Manages Details
  • Focused
  • Self-managed & Self-directed
  • Handles Rejection Well
  • Confident
  • Committed to Personal Development

If you need help putting together a job description, we have you covered. Click here to find a sample job description.

When you’re about to transition from doing it all to hiring your first front-line fundraiser don’t allow fear to seep in. If your data is telling you it’s time to hire… it’s time to hire.



Series for Small Non-Profit Organizations: How Do You Get Started in Major Gifts?

  1. So What If You’re Small?
  2. How to Make Time for Major Gifts When You’re a Small Shop 
  3. How Do You Make the Case for Hiring Your First Fundraiser? (This Post)