MAJOR DONOR FOCUS: Better Manage your Majors in the New Year

Hi I'm a Donor

It’s been a challenge for many organizations to secure Major Donor gifts this holiday season.  And while it’s not over just yet, I want to begin to look forward and suggest how you can manage your Major Donors when the new year arrives.

To unpack this further, let’s put our Majors into two simple buckets – those who gave a gift in November or December, and those who didn’t.

Majors Who Gave a Gift

Those that gave a gift in November or December should be treated differently than major donors who held onto their gift.

First and foremost, we want to genuinely thank Majors who made a gift.

Regardless of the amount, The Better Fundraising Company has often talked about the benefit of following a busy holiday and year-end with a month of gratitude.  We call it Thankuary

Thanking your donors, Majors especially, is a great way to help secure future gifts.  So, now is the perfect time to start preparing thank-you notes, cards, emails, and letters to ensure that your most generous donors feel your love and gratitude.

If you’d like to see how to apply Thankuary at your organization, you can download a free cheat sheet, here.

Majors Who Didn’t Give a Gift

There are a variety of reasons why your Majors may not be making a gift in November or December.  Yet whether it’s uncertainty around the economy or the effects of the pandemic, there are a few things you can do in January to help secure a major gift.

Firstly, be ready to present your Majors with a good offer.  It might be an urgent cold-weather need, an opportunity to provide a match, or even a vision for 2021 they can fund or support.  But whatever the offer is, make sure it’s relevant to the donor and the season.

Secondly, start to secure your meetings or Zoom calls now.  Get appointments on the calendar for January.   And when you have those appointments, be bold in your asking, and give your Majors a problem that only they can solve.

To land the plane, if your Majors made a gift in November or December, make sure to thank them well.  But if you’re still waiting for that gift, don’t despair.  Instead, prepare your offer, be patient, and get ready to deliver it early in the new year.

How to Focus Your Ask on One Thing AND Raise Undesignated Funds

one thing

During these crazy last few months, nonprofits we serve have had a lot of success raising money using strong fundraising offers.  By that I mean highlighting a specific part of what the nonprofit does and then asking the donor to send in a gift today to fund that part. 

Not asking the donor to “partner with us” or to “support our mission” or to “provide hope.”  But asking the donor just to fund the part that the appeal focuses on.

There’s a good question that must be answered when using this approach:

“How can you raise undesignated funds in your appeal if it focuses only on one program – even just one part of one program?”

This free video answers that question.


The video makes it easy for you by showing you the things you need to say in your appeals, and the places you need to say them, to raise undesignated funds.

I also share how to think about this approach – which is new for most people.

It’s just 5 minutes long and is completely free.  But watch it so that you too can enjoy the benefits of raising more money that come from talking about specific programs or parts of your organization – while raising undesignated funding!

The Easy Way to Raise More Money and Keep Your Donors


Really simple – but powerful – idea for your nonprofit…

If you communicate to your donors more through the pandemic, you’ll be more likely to retain your donors.

Your communications have to be relevant, of course. They can’t be all about your feelings about the pandemic and downturn. They can’t be about what the pandemic is doing to your staff or your partners.

Your communications need to be about your cause or beneficiaries. And they need to be about your donors.

Here’s The Big Idea

You know those “big” nonprofits who send out 14 pieces of direct mail and 75 emails a year?

They don’t send so many pieces of fundraising because they’re big organizations.

They became big nonprofits because they send out 14 pieces of direct mail and 75 emails a year.

Wait, What?!?

Here’s what happens:

  • Your organization sends out a couple more fundraising appeals and emails than normal
  • You pay attention to results, and your organization learns more about what works and doesn’t work for your fundraising
  • Your organization gets more efficient at creating each piece of fundraising
  • Soon each piece raises more money and costs less to make
  • Now your organization is raising more, doing more good, and getting bigger

You get bigger because you start mailing more and learning more.

It’s All About Reps

The way to get better at direct response fundraising (your appeals, e-appeals, newsletters, etc.) is to practice.

You need more reps.

More practice + pay attention to results = learn more about what works

Learn more about what works + more practice = more money

So, during the incredible fundraising opportunity we’re all living through, figure out how to get more practice.

With time not spent on other things, could you send out two more e-appeals this month? (And don’t worry about “donor fatigue,” instead worry about being relevant.)

With time not spent on other things, could you get a couple powerful e-reports out? (You know, so your donors know that their gift to your organization makes a difference, so that they are more likely to give you a gift the next time you ask?)

Get more reps in. Pay attention to results. If the myth of donor fatigue is stopping you, throw that idea out the window, it’s useless.


Get better.

Do more good.

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