• Shelby Moore

Major Gift Overview for a Small Shop

Updated: Jan 28

No matter what the size of your organization, every nonprofit should have a Major Gifts Program. Working with individual donors on a one-on-one basis can be the most rewarding part of working in any small shop. The first step in developing a Major Gifts Program, is to define a major gift. A major gift does not have to be six-figures to be considered major.

To develop your minimum major gift level:

  1. Start by identifying your top 5 to 10 individual donors, and examine the range in gift sizes.

  2. Eliminate the outliers.

  3. Based on the gift sizes left, estimate a major gift minimum.

  4. Test that number in your database and look for how many gifts match or beat that amount.

  5. Change and move around your number, as needed.

Major gifts should be scarce, but not nonexistent.


On the road to an effective major gift strategy, there are 10 critical steps:

  1. Identify: Determine your prospects by looking at your current database. Then, identify who knows your potential prospect, work to understand the prospect’s love for your organization, and evaluate the donor’s perceived capacity.

  2. Research: Look into the donor’s files, conduct general background research, and talk to your board of directors to gather additional information.

  3. Set timeline: Give yourself a time period for each request. Some major gifts can take 6 – 8 months for an individual, whereas a business might be less than 3 months.

  4. Cultivate: Start to strengthen the natural ties and increase the donor’s involvement with your organization. This may come in the form of inviting the donor to tour, to have a coffee sit-down with you, or even inviting them to see your program in action.

  5. Match interests: Try to figure out what interests the donor. Identify whether they are passionate about a particular aspect of your mission.

  6. Determine the ask: Your ask must be tied to the need. Utilize wealth indicators to determine your ask amount. Utilizing a gift table for capital and annual needs can improve your ask.

  7. Recognition: Recognition should be equal to the level of gift ask. Try to think about the donor’s personal style and work to determine how the donor has been recognized in the past or with other organizations.

  8. Determine solicitation team: Think about who has the best relationship with the donor. This might not be you… It could be the Executive Director, board member, etc.

  9. Gather Materials: Provide the donor with a request letter, tailored proposal, and a description of specific recognition opportunities.

  10. Prepare solicitors: Brief the solicitation team, practice, role-play, and create a follow-up plan.

It is imperative to have a Major Gift Strategy in order to help focus your major gift efforts and demonstrate that your organization understands its donors. A strategic approach like this will help increase your organization’s chance of success. This is simply an overview of Major Gifts. Want more information? Feel free to contact me!


Shelby Moore - MPA, CFRE

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