Major Gifts make up as much as 80 percent of a typical nonprofit organization’s charitable income in a year – and come from 20 percent or less of donors.  Yet only one third of study participants use a consistent strategy to identify major gift prospects.

This first-ever “Major Gifts Fundraising Benchmark Study” provides data on what organizations of all sizes across the U.S. and Canada report on their major gifts programs. What do they consider a major gift, what tools and methods do they use that work best and what gets in their way from achieving a consistent major gifts program?

Study sponsored by the Association of Philanthropic Counsel. Data services provided by Melissa S. Brown & Associates, LLC and is funded by MarketSmart.

Key study findings:

 I   First, what gift size constitutes a major gift?

26% of respondents stated that $1,000 is considered a major gift.  While $1,000 is a very generous gift, this number has not changed in decades in spite of inflation.  Arts organizations and education reported a higher range to qualify for a major gift. They also attract some of the wealthiest benefactors.

II   Consistency:

It’s no surprise that organizations that use a process to identify major gifts – any process – and use it consistently meet their major gift goals most often. This was true across all sizes of nonprofits, from those with revenue less than $500,000 to the largest in the study, with revenues above $25 million. The key is to be consistent in working to identify major gift prospects.


III   Four of the best methods for identifying major gift prospects in order of effectiveness include:

  1. Conduct prospect research using available public records to discover interests and resources.
  2. Ask existing donors and volunteers for referrals and introductions to potential donors.
  3. Analysis of the of the organization’s database.
  4. Tracking which donors engage online or interact by ‘liking,’ opening, forwarding, and responding to digital content.

IV   What tools are effective organizations using?

  1. 73% use wealth screening and 75% use prospect research.
  2. 69% draw on the knowledge of board and committee members.
  3. 47% use analytic models of a typical donor.
  4. 31% use donor surveys.

V   So why aren’t more organizations engaged in a consistent major gifts program?

  1. 54% indicate a shortage of staff time to concentrate on major gifts.
  2. 47% feel that board member involvement is the challenge.
  3. 41 % find identifying prospects for major gifts as the biggest challenge.

See the full study

K2 Consulting Group is a member firm of APC –Association of Philanthropic Counsel

Five ways to consistently increase major gifts

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