Major gift donors.

Every nonprofit wants them. But only the big nonprofits have them, right? Wrong!

I hear you saying, "We're a small nonprofit. We don't have big donors." But you do.


When you hear the words "major gift," what comes to mind? Six- or seven-figure donations?

Guess what? There's not an industry-defined dollar amount for a major gift or a major donor.

Instead, YOUR major donors are the individuals who give the most to your organization each year.

That means, for some organizations, a major donor might be someone who gives $500. Or $5,000. Or $50,000. Maybe even more.

MarketSmart did research on this very topic, asking How Big Is the Average Major Gift? They found that most nonprofits define a major gift as one between $1,000 and $2,500. For some nonprofits in the study, the average major gift was less than $1,000. And for a very few, fortunate ones, the average major gift exceeded $1 million.

While the dollar amount of a "major gift" will vary from organization to organization, every nonprofit has them.

And that means YOU have major donors, too.


One size doesn't fit all, when it comes to identifying a major gift or major donor.

Recently, an organization told me that "Any gift above $250 gets our attention." For them, donors who give $250 and above are their major donors.

There are a couple of ways to identify YOUR major donors. Start by thinking about your current donors and their past giving history.

What's your highest gift to date? Clearly, that's a major donor. Other high-dollar gifts? Yes, those are your major donors, too.

Another way to identify your top donors is to print a list of your donors and gift amounts. Look for natural clusters of gift amounts. Gifts in those top tier(s) are from your major donors.

Or, here's a simple, more analytical approach. Print your donor list, in descending order by gift size. Count the number of donors, then draw a line to mark the top 10%. Those are your major donors.


Your major donors are the people who love you and your organization. And they show it by making larger than average donations.

You've probably heard of the 80/20 rule. It says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your activities.

In fundraising, it's really a 90/10 rule. Studies show that 90% of your revenue comes from just 10% of your donors.

Let me say that again: 10% of your donors are responsible for 90% of your funding! That's why you need to know who your major donors are. Your top 10%.

You want to treat your major donors like the VIPs they are, so they'll keep giving to your organization.


One way you can keep your major donors is by thanking this special group of donors very personally.

In a previous post, I shared how a personal letter is better than a personalized one.

In that post, I also encouraged you to handwrite as many personal notes as possible.

So start now. Grab a stack of note cards. Get your list of major donors. And get ready to write.

Start at the top of your major donor list. Handwrite one or two thank you notes a day, until you've written each of your major donors.

In each personal note, tell your donor how much her gift was appreciated. Tell her what her gift has accomplished. Tell her what meaningful changes have occurred as a result of her past support.

Follow this thank-and-report formula, and you'll be well on your way to keeping more of your donors.

And when you keep more of your donors, you'll raise more money for your nonprofit.

This post originally appeared on the Communicate! blog as part of Thank You Thursday.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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