What Amount Makes a “Major” Gift?

Major gifts are the largest donations a nonprofit organization receives.  But the exact dollar amount varies.  A new study reveals that not all gifts (or nonprofits) are made equal.

The size of a gift depends on the organization’s service, operating budget, community, and fundraising base (local, regional, or international).  Major gifts make up close to 80% of an organization’s total funding for a given year, and they come from less than 20% of the donor base.

One nonprofit might consider a $1000 gift to be a major gift.  For another, a large gift might be more like $250,000 or even $1 million.  If you’re reading this blog, you likely have a good idea of your own organization’s major gift threshold.  But how does it compare to others?

The first ever “Major Gifts Fundraising Benchmark Study” establishes useful baselines to learn more about gifts.  For this study, more than 600 organizations in the US and Canada participated.  The data was collected between February and March 2017.  The study’s authors are Missy Gale (Association of Philanthropic Counsel) and Melissa Brown (Melissa S. Brown and Associates) and sponsored by MarketSmart.

Major Gift Threshold

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As you can see above, the most common major gift threshold was between $1000 and $2500.  About half of respondents suggested a large gift lay below the $10,000 threshold, while the other half suggested a large gift only began above that threshold.

Operating Budget Influence

Do you know your nonprofit’s operating budget?  This number can directly influence your major gift goals.

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Prospect Research Helps

The study determined four methods of identifying gift prospects.  These methods are:

  • Conducting prospect research with screening, scores, and profiles
  • Asking for referrals from current donors, volunteers, and other advocates
  • Analysis of your donor database/CRM
  • Tracking which donors engage online or interact with your organization’s digital content

Depending on your organization’s budget, you may be able to employ all these strategies in tandem or maybe just one or two.  For some, it could be a struggle to maintain even one strategy on a consistent basis.  But results show these strategies are worth the investment of time, budget, and other resources.  Consider the chart below.

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As a provider of prospect research and screening solutions, we at iWave know that prospect research is worth the investment.  With the right tool, you can analyze information from your donor database and prospect for new donors using external wealth and philanthropic data.

How does this information compare to your experience in nonprofit fundraising?  What is your organization’s major gift threshold?  Let us know in the comments below.  To read the full MarketSmart study, click here.


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