Offers for Major Donors

Two people discussing.

Today’s topic is a complex subject. But I’ve done the work to be able to talk about it in a succinct manner.

The topic? Using offers to increase major donor giving.

Three main ideas for you…

Offers for Major Donors: Under-Utilized, but Very Effective

Presenting a major donor with a specific thing that their gift will do for a specific amount of money is a very powerful tactic.

But in my experience, too many nonprofits stop using specific offers when their donors move up and into major donor status. All of the asks move into the generic “support our mission” approach.

Do not remove specific offers from the toolbox you use to cultivate and upgrade your current major donors.

One of the main reasons our major donor consulting practice is thriving is because we help organizations develop specific offers for their majors. Those offers usually result in higher giving and higher retention rates.

There are Two Main Ways to Create Offers for Majors

The first way: use the same offer you use for your mass donor, but in greater quantities.

Instead of “$50 provides supplemental math training to a student for a week,” say “$1,500 provides supplemental math training for an entire classroom for one week” or “$4,500 provides supplemental math training for all the 3rd grade classes at a school for one week.”

All you’re doing here is using large multiples of a smaller offer. But (and this is important) you are grouping those multiples into the right-sized groupings for major donors.

The second way: create custom offers for major donors.

This is often done by reviewing program budgets to find line items at an amount a specific donor might give. For instance, say you’re a community Arts organization and your rent for the year is $20,000. You could say the following to a donor:

“Your gift of $20,000 will provide a headquarters for our organization for an entire year. You’ll make it possible for the entire team to have a place to work together, to meet, and to work to preserve the local Arts and artists that you care about so much.”

Note: this raises an issue of designated vs. un-designated giving, which is not the subject of this post. In my experience, organizations that are set up to raise both kinds of giving tend to have the most success.

A “Donor-Shaped Hole”

I’ve shared the concept of how all of your fundraising pieces should have a “donor-shaped hole” in them: an obvious role for your donor to play in an appeal, at an event, in your organization.

The trick with major donors is to create the right-sized hole for each donor, while not ignoring the fact that some of your majors would like to accomplish specific things with their gift.

That’s the reason offers work for major donors, too. An offer shares a specific need that allows a major donor to support your organization, your beneficiaries or cause, AND feel like they’ve accomplished something specific. For some donors, that’s a powerful combination.

Too many organizations’ major donor fundraising comes down to communicating, “You can give a lot of money, please support us.”

That’s just not as powerful an offer as, “Here’s something powerful and specific that needs to be done to help, will you do this?”

It usually takes more work to create and refine offers for major donors. But it’s worth it.

Read the entire series:

  1. How to Create a Great Fundraising Offer: What’s an Offer?
  2. Why a Good Fundraising Offer Works So Well
  3. The Ingredients in Successful Offers
  4. How to Describe the “Solution” Your Organization Provides
  5. How to Raise More Money by Asking for the Right Amount
  6. How and Why to Give Your Donors a Reason to Give Today
  7. What About Internal Experts Who Don’t Like Fundraising Offers?
  8. How to Make Sure a Low-Priced Offer Does NOT Produce Small Gifts
  9. Half As Important
  10. Offers for Major Donors
  11. Summarizing and Closing This Chapter on Fundraising Offers

Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

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