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Six Simple Steps to Major Gifts for Small Shops

Do you want to significantly boost your fundraising revenue this year?

Does your organization get most of its fundraising income from events and grant writing? If so, you're not alone, and there's good news: there's an additional audience waiting to support you. If you really want to see a significant jump in your annual fundraising results, it's time to start cultivating and soliciting major gifts from individual donors.

This year, I've issued a Major Gifts Challenge on my blog to encourage executive directors and development directors like you to solicit major gifts for the first time or in a more strategic way.

Asking individuals for donations in a personal, face-to-face way is the most effective way to increase your annual fund.

Step 1: Define a Major Gift

What is a major gift at your organization?

For most small and mid-sized organizations, the term major gift doesn't mean $1 million or even $100,000. A major gift of $10,000, $5,000, or even $1,000 could mean a significant boost to your annual fund.

When I worked at a battered women's shelter, a major gift was $1,000. When we received $1,000 or more, it was cause for celebration. In contrast, many hospitals and universities consider a major gift to be $25,000 or even six figures or higher.

Do you know what a major gift means for your organization? To determine what a major gift is at your organization, check out my recent post as part of the Major Gifts Challenge.

Step 2: Get Your Board Members on Board

Do you have 100 percent board participation? In other words, do all of your board members contribute to your annual fund? Do you have an annual board retreat where you discuss fundraising and how each board member can get involved?

A board retreat is a great opportunity to have a conversation about the importance of board member participation and a discussion about how board members can get involved with fundraising. Board members can participate in any or all of the steps below.

Step 3: Identify Prospective Donors

Use your database to identify your top donors. Run a list of your top donors and be sure to include cumulative giving. This process will also help you identify what a major gift is for your organization, based on your results.

Once you have your biggest donor list, narrow it down to your top 20 prospective donors, based on their giving and their connection and involvement with your organization. (A one-time big donor, who only gave as a result of honoring someone, is not a great prospect, if they don't have any interest in your organization.)

Step 4: Cultivate Your Top Prospects

Get to know your donors in a personal and meaningful way.

Start with your top 20 list and visit them at their homes or offices, invite them to your events, and ask them to take a tour. Ask open-ended questions and find out why they give to your organization and what makes them want to keep giving. Find out if they would like to be more involved by volunteering.

Step 5: Ask for a Gift

This is the most important step. Schedule time to meet with each of your top 20 prospects and ask for a specific amount for your annual fund. Do not skip this step.

Step 6: Say Thank You

Once you receive a gift, say thank you. Call the donor up, send an e-mail, mail a letter. Once is not enough.

If you want to raise more money this year, the key is to raise major gifts from your best donors. If you want more help, join the Major Gifts Challenge by visiting my Web site,, where you will find all the details about the Major Gifts Challenge. It's FREE, no strings attached.

six-simple-steps-to-major-gifts-for-small-shops_Amy-Eisenstein.jpgAmy Eisenstein, MPA, CFRE, Tri Point Fundraising
© 2013, Tri Point Fundraising

Amy Eisenstein, MPA, CFRE is a fundraising consultant for local and national nonprofits. She's raised millions of dollars through event planning, grant writing, capital campaigns, and major gift solicitations. Her "no-nonsense" approach to fundraising yields amazing results for her clients. Find Amy on Twitter @AmyEisenstein.

Topics: Fundraising