Kathie Kramer Ryan is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub and the founder of Arroyo Fundraising Fluency. She has excelled in development and leadership positions in the nonprofit sector for 15 years. As a fundraising Coach and Consultant, Kathie helps development professionals like you to have your best year yet raising money for your nonprofit’s mission. Be sure to catch Kathi’s free webinar with the Hub on March 25.
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There is huge potential for impact when you connect your nonprofit organization to individuals with the capacity to make a significant gift. But what does it take to be successful with major gift fundraising?

As a start, here are seven must-have tools and tactics for launching a major gifts program at your nonprofit.

1. Case for Support

Your case for support is arguably the most important tool in your fundraising toolbox. According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) fundraising dictionary, your case outlines why your organization both needs and merits philanthropic support, and includes an overview of current programs, opportunities and plans.

In other words, your case for support shares with prospective donors all of the good reasons to consider supporting your mission. Use your case to show your donors how they can make an impact and inspire them to do so.

2. Gift Acceptance Policy

A gift acceptance policy is a written description of the types and forms of gifts your organization accepts and how it will use the gifts. This policy can be a great tool for managing donors’ expectations regarding the assets they might consider gifting to your organization.

3. Donor Management System

Access to accurate donor information is critical for fundraising success, especially when working with major gift donors. Major donor cultivation requires a personal approach, which can be facilitated by detailed donor records.

You want a system that’s fast, efficient, easy to use and accessible to your entire development team. A well maintained database will help ensure that:

  • All of your donor information is in one place
  • You can track pledge forms, email exchanges and other correspondence
  • When a development staffer moves on, critical donor info will stay with your organization—where it belongs.

4. Major Gifts Committee

Major gifts work takes time, strategy and connections. A volunteer major gifts committee, with knowledge of your community and a passion for your mission, can boost outcomes by helping you to strategize cultivation plans for your highest-level donors. Also, these volunteers can widen your circle of influence by introducing new prospects to your organization.

5. A Goal and a Plan

(Yep, technically this counts as two, but they go hand-in-hand so I’ve grouped them together.) Regardless of which project you’re tackling in life, a goal will define where you’re going while a plan will show you how to get there.

Before launching a major gifts campaign, it’s important to first be clear on how much you’re trying to raise. Is it $10,000 or $10 million? Once you know your goal, you can build your plan. Your plan should specify the number of prospects you’ll need, target ask amounts for each prospect, who will ask and deadlines for when you’ll ask.

6. Personal Cultivation

Cultivation is building a relationship with your prospect or donor as he or she learns about the mission and work of your organization. To help ensure a donor-centered approach, create a personal cultivation plan for each major gift prospect. Focus on the things that interest and inspire each donor. When you find that a donor’s passion intersects with your mission, that’s a magical moment!

7. Personal Stewardship

Stewardship is showing your donors the impact of their gift. And just like cultivation, a personal stewardship plan for your major donors is the way to go.

To start, be sure your acknowledgment message tells your donor how their gift is making a difference. Then, consider special acknowledgment opportunities—ways to show your donors the impact of their gift. For example, site visits, private receptions, photographs, videos, dinner with your board chair and other personal interactions can make for great stewardship touches.

Once these seven elements are in place, you’ll have the basic foundation of a successful major gifts program for your organization.

If you’d like to learn more about building a major gift fundraising program at your nonprofit, join us on March 25 for the free webinar, “Think Big! How to Build a Rockin’ Major Gifts Program from Scratch.”