Major gifts considered exceptions to the rule

At one time, major donor prospecting was pretty much a matter of find out who has a lot of money and go after them.

The basic idea might still be the same in fundraising, but cutting-edge methods of gathering and utilizing information have made the soliciting of major donors a more sophisticated endeavor than it once was.

Now, there is even more information that can be useful. In “Analytics-Driven Fundraising” published by Blackbaud, Lawrence Henze, Melissa Bank Stepno and Melissa Wayman report on an analysis that was performed of the donors of 20 large national nonprofit organizations, primarily in the “cause and cure” sectors, in a six-year giving time frame. More than two million total contributors were analyzed, with 5,552 considered major donors ($10,000 or more over any one-year period).

The findings included:

  • There is significant volatility in donor patterns. For example, 49 percent of major donors gave nothing to an organization in the year before making a major gift; and 68 percent of major donors made only one major gift over the entire time frame of the study.
  • Mid-level giving requires increased focus. A large percentage of organizational revenue (87.4 percent) came from a small group of mid-level and major gift donors.
  • Major gifts are special exceptions to the rule. The data strongly suggested that donors actually view major gifts of $10,000+ to be one-time, special contributions.