Part 2 in a 3-Part Series for Small Non-Profit Organizations: How Do You Get Started in Major Gifts?

In my last blog post, I outlined three areas you need to address before starting a major gift program: assessing your data, identifying your major gift level, and creating buy-in within your organization so everyone understands the importance of major gifts.

So, once you have that completed – by the way, the “buy-in” part with the organization is a continuous effort – you can now start putting together the proper structure you’ll need to be successful. At this stage, the first question I ask any small organization’s development director or CEO is this: how much time will you be able to devote to major gifts?

This is extremely important to know because it drives how many qualified donors you can have in your portfolio without losing your mind. Richard and I want you to succeed in major gifts, and you won’t if you have too many donors in your portfolio that you can’t actually handle.

So, as you may know we recommend a full-time portfolio of 150 qualified donors. Let’s say you only can devote 30% of your time to major gifts. This would mean you can only handle 45 donors in your portfolio. To get your max number of donors, take whatever percentage of your month you can commit to, i.e. 30%, and multiply the decimal by 150 (0.3 x 150 = 45).

Okay, so let’s continue with the 30% of your time devoted to major gifts scenario. How do you get to 45 qualified donors? Here’s what you do. Take 45 x 3 = 135. 135 is how many donors you need (that meet your major gift metric) to get to 45 qualified donors in your portfolio.

Why multiply by three when qualifying your caseload? Because what we have found over the last decade of doing this work is that on average, only a third of donors that meet your major gift metrics actually want to have a deeper relationship with your organization.

Now, we have a white paper on how to qualify donors, so I won’t go into the details, but download it and you’ll have a step-by-step guide on how to do it. This is probably the most important thing you can do to be successful at major gifts. You should only have a portfolio of QUALIFIED donors.  Too many fundraisers make the mistake of putting any donor in there that meets your metric, and the results are disastrous because no donor will want to connect with you and you’ll think you’re a failure.

We’re helping you to not fail… and one essential step toward success is to qualify your donors.

So, the next thing is creating that structure that we call The Veritus Way to help you manage the day to day of your portfolio. Again, we have another white paper for you to figure out how to do this, but to summarize the process, you’ll have a cash-flowed revenue goal for every donor, a strategic communication plan for the next 12 months on how you’re going to achieve that goal, and you’ll tier the donors A-C. You do this so you can further concentrate your time better on the right people. In other words, you want to spend about 50% of your time just with your “A” Level donors.

The other critical things you need to have in place are:

  • Reporting back on impact is essential to your donor relationships. See if you can find volunteers or board members who can help with thanking people and reporting on impact so you can stay focused on your top donors.
  • Take some time to create open-ended questions you can ask your donors to learn more about their interests and passions.
  • Celebrate the impact your donors are having!
  • Report back to the rest of your team if they helped to secure a gift.
  • Get creative with your program team on how you can bring the donors to the need.

Now, this is not going to happen overnight, but these are just the basic tools and building blocks you will need to start your major gift program and see long-term success. The fact is, it doesn’t matter if you have 150 donors, 50 or even 5 qualified donors. You can still be successful with it if you follow The Veritus Way I’ve outlined above.

Thousands of front-line fundraisers are doing it today, from large, billion-dollar non-profits to small one-person development team ones. You can do it too.

Next time, we’ll talk about how you can know when it’s finally time to hire your first full-time front-line fundraiser. What a day that will be!



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 (This Post)
  3. How Do You Make the Case for Hiring Your First Fundraiser?