Fundraising & Development

Major Donor Strategy: The basics and best practices for small nonprofits

March 12, 2021 Nonprofits Decoded Team
Donor outreach and engagement meeting

If you have ever raised funds before, you already know how important major donors are. They help fund programs, keep the lights on and provide a backbone for many nonprofits.

In trying times like these small nonprofits put resources and reach out to everyone in need. To make your small nonprofit run, you need funds. One of the best strategies to fulfill your budget needs is a major donor strategy – which is part of an effective donor outreach strategy.

Major donors are considered to be the biggest support for small nonprofits. Without their large fundraising teams and gift officers, small nonprofits would have difficulty implementing a major donor strategy. In this post, we will discuss how your nonprofit can get it done.

What is a major donor?

Before moving onto any further details, let’s first define the major donor’s definition for you.

To put it in simple words, major donors donate a significant amount to an organization. However, the amount that is considered “significant” varies depending on the size of your organization.

Major donors are very crucial for your nonprofit. They are the people that donate huge chunks of your overall fundraising revenue. In other words, your fundraising wouldn’t be successful without them.

Major donors help your cause by donating more than any other donator. Therefore, you have all the reasons to prioritize your relationships with them.

Nonprofits who cultivate their relationships with major donors are likely to receive more from them. This is why you should maintain consistent communication and show appreciation to all your major donors. But before that, you need to identify who your major donors are and for how long or how often they have been donating.

This can be done in three steps:

  • First, prepare a list of all your donors and the donations received in the past year.
  • Make sure you list the biggest at the top.
  • List down from the largest gift to the smallest to get a clear picture. This will help you know who your major donors are.
  • If the list is too long, you can trim it down.

What’s a major donor strategy?

Now that you know what a major donor is, it’s time to discuss a major donor strategy.

A major donor strategy is a strategy designed to establish a long-term relationship with a major donor so that they continue to provide a significant amount of funds to your organization. What “significant” means to your nonprofit will be different from other nonprofits.

With the help of major donor strategies, you can also attract generous supporters. You can reach your nonprofit to people who haven’t heard of it before. These people can end up donating sizable amounts of money to your organization.

A major donor strategy is extremely crucial for a nonprofit. It helps them maintain good relations with their major donors. It’s with their funds that nonprofits can provide for society. Without their contribution, nonprofits would struggle to support their cause. This is why a nonprofit need an effective major donor strategy.

Should small nonprofits focus on major donors?

Let’s be frank; small nonprofits lack the fundraising resources that a big nonprofit or foundation has. This is why they need to put extra effort into getting to their major donors.

When it comes to fundraising for small nonprofits, major donors matters the most. They contribute about 75% of their revenue. These organizations are surviving and able to provide for society because of their major donors. To keep the donations running, you need to maintain good relationships with all your major donors. At the same time, you also need to let them know the needs of your organization. The more effort you put, the better it is for your organization.

Most small nonprofits have smaller donor lists. Nonprofits appreciate every $10 donation. But receiving a $10 donation from every donor would be useless for them. This is where they need major donors to donate significant amounts to support their cause. To attract more major donors, you need to have a solid major donor strategy in place. The more donors you attract, the more donations you get.

How do I put together a strategy?

To develop a major donor strategy, you need first to understand the different components involved. The most important thing is determining the amount that qualifies as a major investment and gift in a dedicated prospect research tool. You can then create a team to dedicate themselves to soliciting major gifts. Once you get all this ready, you can start planning any major donor marketing tactics and outreach tactics.

Now the question is how to put up a major donor strategy. Well, the first step is to identify who your major donors are. For this, you should refer to your nonprofit. This will help you create a list of the donors whose donations make up 75% of your budget.

Once you know who your major donors are, you need to identify what they have in common. For instance, what attracted them to your nonprofit? Why do they care or donated to your mission? All this information is crucial as it helps you to understand the mindset of your major donors.

Once you know what attracts your major donors, you can apply the same qualities to draw other major donors to your nonprofit. For example, you could publish a case study highlighting your successful client story or campaign and send it to your prospective major donors. This can help you attract their attention.

You need to look deeper into the data you already have. The more nicely you understand your major donor, the easier it will be to raise funds from them. Keep a check on the large donations and the dates when you received them. It would be best if you channel your efforts to your major donor campaigns. This can help you identify the type of events that inspires your major donors to donate.

Here are some best practices to follow for fundraising during the ongoing pandemic:

Increase nonfundraising communications

You should come up with some nonfundraising communications with your major donors as well. For example, don’t just update them solely about your nonprofit. Try to provide them with some helpful resources regarding the situation, and take the time to ask your donors how they’re holding up genuinely.

Optimize your communication strategy with donor segmentation

You need to have effective donor segmentation tools so that you can create targeted communications with your supporters. In case some of your major donors want you to pause fundraising activities, for the time being, don’t invite them to ask to donate for your next campaign.

Arrange for one-on-one video meetings

Nonprofits often conduct one-on-one meetings with their major donors. They do so to discuss their organization’s plan for the year. At the same time, it also helps them to understand each other more. With the existing social distancing protocols, it has become difficult to arrange a face-to-face meeting. In this case, the best alternative would be a video meeting on a platform like Zoom or GoToMeeting. This will allow you to communicate with your major donors from the safety of indoors.

Offer virtual opportunities and events

Since face-to-face interactions are not possible, you have to shift your focus to virtual events and opportunities. Instead of fundraising events, you can provide engaging experiences with a virtual offering. All you need is the right tool to provide opportunities for people to participate in your virtual events.

Show appreciation to your donor.

Even if your major donors cannot give right now, you should show them an appreciation for their support. They deserve all the praises for helping you in the past. For donors who can make a gift, you need to increase your appreciation. It is increasingly important to show your donors how much they matter to you during these difficult times. You can also consider sending a handwritten letter along with some token of gratitude. You can even call them up personally and thank them for their contribution.

Increase the giving channels

Effective fundraising for your organization is based upon the opportunities you provide for your major donors.

By increasing the number of channels to donate for your mission, you make it more accessible and convenient for your donors. This is an important step to take during these trying times. It would help if you tried to implement other ways to give.

For example, you can add new options on your website donation page, text fundraising, cryptocurrency donations or peer-to-peer fundraising.

Putting it into practice at your nonprofit

Major donors are the biggest support for small nonprofits. To keep your organization running, you need to establish good relationships with all your donors, especially those that provide a significant amount of donations. You should appreciate your donors for all the support they provide. This time is perfect for letting them know how important they are to your organization. With the right major donor strategy, you can benefit your nonprofit to a great extent.