Cultivating Major Donors

Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer

Eighty percent of the money raised from donors typically comes from major gifts of $500 or more. In order to develop new major donors every year, nonprofits need to have a workable process for cultivating those donors. Amy Eisenstein, a fundraising consultant, speaker, coach and author, wrote an article for GuideStar that describes a process that she used successfully with many of her clients. Here is a summary of what Amy proposed.

At the start of each year, identify your 20 best prospects for becoming major donors. Your source of possibilities might be your donor lists of people that give below the major gift level, people that have attended some of your events, people that are involved with your program as volunteers, and people who are on the contact lists of your Board and staff members. Boil the list of possibilities down to the twenty best prospects.

Plan to spend most of the year cultivating these prospects prior to asking them for a major gift at year end. The plan for each prospect should include some sort of cultivation activity every month. Some of the monthly cultivation events can be a mailing or Emailing, but at least half should be developing personal relationships with the client through phone calls and personal notes, meeting them for coffee or lunch, personally giving them a tour of your facilities and operations, and attending nonprofit events where you spend time with each prospect. Cultivation involves building a personal relation with a prospect in addition to making them well informed about your nonprofit and its good works.

Have a plan for who will make the “ask” for each prospect (the ED or a Development staff person plus a Board member or other volunteer is an ideal two person “ask team”). The “ask team” should be the ones developing the personal relationship with each prospect. They should be collecting the prospect information that will enable them to decide what to ask each prospect for, and how to go about doing the “ask”. If some team members have never done an “ask”, they need to be trained in the process and need to practice their presentation in order to be comfortable and effective in their “ask” role.

To read Amy’s article, please go to

Author:  Bob Cryer, Executive Coaches of Orange County,