At K2 Consulting Group, we recommend our clients use all of the tools outlined in the “2017 Major gifts Fundraising Benchmark Study” to increase their major gifts. (Read the study)

As the study reveals, major donors are identified through two methods: Technology-based methods and human intelligence methods. I should add that before we had access to technological tools, human intelligence was quite effective at raising billions of dollars for the non-profit sector. Technology has made our jobs easier and much more efficient.

K2’s five tips for increasing major gifts:

#1 Major gifts start with your inner circle first – the Board

If board members are not giving and raising 30-40% or more, it will be hard to attract major donors because they are savvy enough to know that the board has to be fully committed for the organization to achieve its goals. Not all board members, but a percentage, must be contributing at leadership levels. 100% percent of the board should be giving to the organization on an annual basis.

The following example captures board giving in a way that doesn’t embarrass or make board members feel uncomfortable. It reflects every board member’s financial contribution, including members who did not give, without associating names. The 2017 Major Gifts Benchmark Study speaks to the need for consistency and this best practice should be a consistent operating procedure that is shared with the board.

The following example reflects board growth over a six-year period:

6-year board growth

#2 Wealth Screening, Prospect Generators and Predictive Modeling 

These data rich electronic tools make prospecting for donors so much quicker, easier and more efficient and are an excellent starting point for identifying donors. They incorporate multiple databases of publicly available information. And they are not just for big university campaigns, they are for any size organization with donors, students, members, congregants, parishioners and other constituents.

  • Wealth screeningallows organizations to generate a comprehensive report that outlines virtually all of a prospect’s important wealth and philanthropic information, including income, real estate, relationships with other nonprofits and publicly held companies, some corporate stock transactions and more.
  • Prospect Generators help identify donors who have given to similar organizations or causes and may have an affinity to your organization’s cause.
  • Predictive modelingis a custom-built statistical model that helps find constituents who share the same characteristics as existing top donors to the organization. It incorporates donors’ giving background, consumer data and more, and with the design of a predictive model, helps organizations target their best major, annual, and planned gift donors, including a recommended target gift range.

Three companies that provide screening and analytic services include Donor SearchWealth Engine; Research Point for Blackbaud users.

#3 Level II – individualized prospect research

An impressive 84% of the organizations that are meeting major gift fundraising goals almost every year are using prospect research to guide their major gift efforts, as noted in the “2017 Major Gifts Fundraising Benchmark Study”. Nonprofits sometimes hesitate spending on prospect research, yet it’s a necessity in major gift development. Individual prospect profiles include an in depth look at assets, philanthropy, family history, professional background and more. An organization must know as much as possible about a prospective donor in order to speak to his/her interests. K2 Consulting Group produces Level II research as a part of our consulting services.

#4 A Prospect Pipeline is the Lifeblood of Your Organization

Prospects should be closely monitored at all stages of their development cycle: identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship. Major donors are the result of very careful pipeline management also referred to as “moves management”. Donor engagement grows if we continue to engage them in our organizations and causes in a compelling way that makes them want to do more.

#5 Performance dashboards

Data that demonstrates acquisition, increases and decreases in support, retention, lapsed donors and more is so important, especially when working with volunteers. Data helps people understand the bigger picture of where we are and where we need to be. It’s much easier to retain a donor than to acquire a new one. These dashboards display gains and losses by numbers of gifts and percentages. For easy online dashboards we utilize Fundraising Report Card, ( Data also allows an organization to closely manage and measure the prospect pipeline and gauge progress. Some services provide up-to-date insights into prospect moves and staff performance data.

Major Gifts Insights from K2

“Some of my best memories of working with clients are on the occasions when I have presented them with a prospect profile on someone they know well, such as a board member. The looks on their faces when they realize their capacity to give is very gratifying. They begin to see the path forward toward their ambitions and goals for the organization.”  

“Always do your research before meeting with anyone from whom you intend to ask for a  gift.”

“A major gift is a campaign in itself. It could take months or years to fully realize.”

Ready to get started on reaching your potential? Contact us to get started.