How to Use Research to Jumpstart Your Major Gift Program

The most cost-efficient fundraising programs have one thing in common: an effective strategy for securing major gifts.

With three decades of experience in compiling the wealth, philanthropic, and biographical data needed for nonprofit organizations to maximize their donations, iWave has long been a leader in fundraising intelligence.

We want to share with you our tips on how to use research to jumpstart your major gift program. Follow these seven steps, backed by data, to drive major donations from the best prospects in your donor pool—including those you may have overlooked in the past!

Download Major Gifts from Major Donors eBook

Prioritize Donors in Your Donor Pool

As the saying goes, “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” If you want a more efficient major gift program, it’s excellent advice. Nonprofits can segment and prioritize donors according to the likelihood that they will become major gift donors.

Previous major gift donors are obvious candidates for the priority list, but keep in mind, there may be other great candidates out there who aren’t so obvious. Look for donors who have given consistently over the past five years and increased their giving. Clearly, they believe in your organization’s mission, and they may have the capacity to give much more.

After 2020, many nonprofits are shifting their fundraising strategies as well. Before, they tended to focus more exclusively on the highest levels of the donor pyramid: major gifts and planned giving. They are now paying more attention to the base of the pyramid—annual donors and other small gift donors—as a means of nurturing leads for future major donations.

See Who Has the Capacity to Give

Affinity with your cause is essential, but it’s not the sole factor when it comes to predicting who will give big. Your organization must discover which donors and prospects have the capacity—in other words, the wealth—to fund a major gift.

An easy way to do that is through wealth screening. It will narrow the field of donors and prospects to create a more efficient major gift portfolio. Look for philanthropic behavior and political donations—two indicators of capacity, according to data. 

Research to Narrow Your Major Gift Pool

After you’ve screened for donors and prospects with major gift capacity, do some research. Confirm that the information from the wealth screening matches the person in your donor pool. The more complete your data is before the wealth screening, the more accurate the results will be.

Once you have more data from your research, narrow your major gift pool again. At this point, you can begin to develop individual cultivation strategies for each prospect you’ve identified. The strategy stage is where you make the stars align! In your discussions with your team, you’ll need to strategize how to:

  • Ask the right people…
  • For the right amount…
  • For the right campaign…
  • At the right time!

Give Potential Donors Your Time

As you narrow your options and set your sights on the strongest candidates, it’s more feasible (and productive) to give them individual attention. Invite potential donors to tour your organization or meet with them to talk about your strategic vision and plan. You may even ask their advice on a new idea.

Face-to-face time is essential—but remember, it doesn’t have to be in person. After 2020, we’ve all seen how effective video calls can be. For reasons of convenience, they will continue to be effective in the future. Don’t be afraid to leverage them! The important thing is to ask the donor their preference.

All this will make them feel more connected to your organization—and far more likely to give a major gift. The most helpful information, once you’ve narrowed your prospects, always comes from asking questions and opening a dialogue. You can let these personal conversations guide your strategy moving forward.

Add New Prospects to Your List

Yes, your existing donor base is a great place to start. However, you should also take this opportunity to find new individuals who could be prospects for your organization. How will you reach them? A data set that catalogues gifts to nonprofits can help. You need to identify the capacity, propensity, and affinity of prospects to give.

Find a platform like iWave that allows a search for people with philanthropic interests and a history of giving to organizations similar or relevant to yours. These donors could be your next major gift givers if you take initiative and make the ask!    

Manage Your Donor Relationships

Now that the field is narrowed, every prospect should be assigned to someone to manage the relationship. That someone could be a board member or a volunteer, or it could be someone on your professional fundraising staff.

Who exactly handles this task depends on the size of your organization. The professional fundraiser will play some role, even if board members or volunteers directly manage relationships. The data couldn’t be clearer: to successfully solicit a major gift, someone must manage the prospect.

How, you ask? What does relationship management look like in practice? It can be as simple as keeping prospects up to date on your organization. It shows you care enough to invite them into the fold! Your outreach team can offer:

  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Exclusive event invitations
  • Face-to-face meetings (virtual or in person)
  • Progress updates

Finally, Ask for the Gift

The final step is always the same: ask for the gift. How you go about it will differ depending on the nature of your organization and the potential major gift donor in question, but it should always include a personal visit and request.

Create some activity benchmarks that drive your major gift program. Use these benchmarks as a measure for the actions you take, and you’ll see more success when it comes to attracting major gifts.

With the help of iWave’s fundraising platform, you’ll know not only who to ask but how much to ask for. Make sure no money is left on the table!

Discover the Major Gift Donors of Your Dreams

Finding prospects in your donor pool (and beyond) with a connection to your mission and the means to donate is key to your next major gift. At iWave, we want to help you identify your prospects with the capacity, propensity, and affinity to give.

Our fundraising platform may be the missing link you need to see the results you’ve been looking for. Our easy-to-use, data-rich platform can give your organization the confidence to find your next major donor.    

Contact our team to request your free demo today!

Stay Up-to-date on Fundraising News and Resources

What You Should Do Now

  1. Request a Demo and see how iWave can help your nonprofit organization target the best potential donors.
  2. Read more free material about fundraising topics in our blog.
  3. If you know someone who’d enjoy this page, share it with them via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

Want a Free Demo of iWave’s Fundraising Intelligence Platform?

Request a Demo