Major Donor Fundraising: The Capital Campaign Fundraising 80/20 Rule

Major Donor Fundraising

Almost every capital campaign has something in common:

A majority of the funding tends to come from just a few major donors.

In 1906, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto created a mathematical formula to describe the unequal distribution of wealth in his country.  He observed that twenty percent of the people owned eighty percent of the wealth.  And it turns out that Pareto’s Principle is surprisingly helpful for fundraising as well – specifically in major donor fundraising and in most capital campaigns.

Over the years I’ve consulted on over 100 capital campaigns. The Pareto Principle hold true: in successful capital campaigns the majority of donations come from just a few major donors.

I recently consulted on a campaign to raise $4M to help build a new resource center for homeless moms and kids.  This project was funded by 3 major donors that gave $2M, plus an additional $1M that was given by a local association of builders who will donate time and materials.  Just 4 donors gave $3M of the $4M goal!!

My advice to you is to evaluate the giving potential of your top donors before you launch a capital campaign. If your top donors have capacity to give 80% of your campaign goal, then you can move forward with your campaign in confidence. If your top donors don’t have the capacity to fund your campaign, then you should adjust your campaign scope or identify new donors that can help cover the difference.

Jim Shapiro

Jim Shapiro is the fundraising coach you’ve always wanted, the proven Sherpa who can help you get to the top of the mountain. Jim has 30 years’ experience raising money, including serving as the VP of Development for a global $100m nonprofit. He co-founded The Better Fundraising Co. to help small-to-medium nonprofits raise more money.

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