A quick five-step guide to a tried, tested, and effective approach when engaging with major donors

Major donor fundraising is the subtle art of inspiring your donors to make a significant gift that will have a transformational impact and thus further your mission. For various reasons, a focus on major donor fundraising is often not a high priority for some charities. As the new decade dawns and the sector confronts new demands, opportunities, and challenges, it’s crucial to focus on this high-value segment of donors who are pivotal to achieving great fundraising outcomes and capital campaign success. Giving Architects have had years of experience advising, designing, and delivering successful capital campaigns and major donor fundraising programmes for charities across New Zealand. They are familiar with the challenges involved in unlocking the potential of major donors.

There are no magical formulas. However, Giving Architects have put together a tried and tested five-step guide that any charity of any scale can follow. It’s essential that fundraisers place a special focus on engaging with major donors to develop sustainable relationships. These donors want to have a connection with your mission and want to make an impact. Caring for and stewarding major donors is necessary and important. We have developed the five-step guide as an effective guideline to major donor engagement and conversion based on extensive experience with high-value campaigns and major donor programmes.

A few critical success factors

While the five-step guide will undoubtedly assist with effective engagement and conversion of your major donor fundraising outcomes, the following critical success factors will enhance the expected success:

  • Do your research and make sure you are aware of the donor’s space, interests, etc. 
  • Face-to-face solicitation: it is imperative to solicit major donors in person as opposed to sending an email or a letter first.
  • Ensure prospective donors are informed, interested, and enthused before any ask.
  • Have the “Will you join me?” conversation. Get the donor on board with your cause and vision.
  • The two-person ask is most effective (Influence and Knowledge).
  • Ask for specific amounts, sequentially linked to a gift chart table.
  • Commit to higher levels of donor stewardship and donor care. This will be a springboard for major donor fundraising if done well.
  • Make use of engagement and enlistment events.
  • Work effectively with influential advocates especially in the capital campaigns.