Major gifts often account for the bulk of a nonprofit’s fundraising revenue. As a result, it can be tempting to allocate significant time, attention, and resources toward finding major investors.
However, with a clear strategy in place, you can effectively source major investors and steward their continued support, rather than focusing your efforts solely on continually researching new leads.
In this guide, we’ll share five strategies for identifying potential major investors and building relationships with them. Whether you’re planning a capital campaign or are focused on capacity building, this guide will provide valuable insights that can help you achieve your fundraising goals.
1. Define major gifts
Before you can start identifying potential major investors, it’s important to determine what a “major investment” means to your organization. For larger nonprofits, a major gift may be defined as donations of $50,000 or more, while less established organizations may lower that threshold to $1,000.
Follow these simple steps to determine what constitutes a major gift to your nonprofit:
- Review your investor database and sort donations from the last year in descending order, with the largest gifts at the top.
- Calculate the average donation amount from the top three to five investors. For instance, if your top investors gave $5,000, $10,000, and $15,000, respectively, you would consider a major gift to be $10,000.
Regularly review and update your definition of a major gift as your organization’s needs, goals, and investor pool change over time.
2. Conduct prospect research
Once you calculate your major gift threshold, you can begin sourcing investors who have a high likelihood of giving at or above that amount. To help guide your efforts, use prospect research.
AlumniFinder defines prospect research as the process of gathering and assessing information about a potential investor’s capacity and willingness to give or increase their current level of giving. It involves using publicly available records, social media, and other data sources to uncover:
- Wealth markers: Conduct a wealth screening to determine a potential investor’s capacity to contribute a major gift. This will provide information about their business affiliations, stock ownership, and home value.
- Philanthropic markers: Analyze an individual’s giving history to determine their willingness to give. Have they supported similar initiatives in the past? Do they serve on another nonprofit’s board? What is their average gift? Answering these questions will help you decide if they are philanthropically minded.
With this information, you can focus your time, effort, and resources on people who you know will resonate with your cause and be inclined to become a major investor.
You may also find through your research that a prospect has a family member that could be a major investor or that their employer offers donation matching, which you can leverage in your next personalized donation request. Doing so will help you further increase funding to your nonprofit.
3. Leverage your network
Chances are your nonprofit already has connections that can lead to qualified investors. Reach out to your current corporate sponsors, board members, and leadership team and ask them to refer you to any potential leads. When someone is referred to your organization by a mutual connection, they are more likely to have confidence in your mission, which can lead to a higher chance of cultivation.
Once a referral is made, follow up promptly with a phone call or in-person meeting to establish a relationship. After you have established a relationship, you can begin soliciting a major gift.
Keep in mind that even if they don’t indicate an immediate interest in becoming an investor, you should store their information in your database, as they may be willing to contribute to your organization in other ways such as volunteering or offering marketing or event planning expertise.
4. Host events
Hosting major investor cultivation events is a great way to strengthen relationships with prospective and current major investors. These events are typically intimate gatherings that allow investors to connect with your organization’s leadership, learn more about your impact, and see firsthand how their donations are making a difference.
Here are a few examples of events that you might benefit from:
- Private dinner with the CEO: Host a small, exclusive dinner with your nonprofit CEO or other key leaders, so investors can connect with leadership on a personal level and learn more about your vision and impact.
- Behind-the-scenes tour: Host a special behind-the-scenes tour of your operations or facilities. For instance, you might take potential investors on a walk through the communities you serve to give them a deeper understanding of your work.
- Major investor appreciation event: Host an event to thank supporters for their commitment to your cause. Share stories of impact, present awards, and give investors a chance to connect with each other. This will encourage them to deepen their involvement with your organization.
- Roundtable discussion: Host a roundtable discussion led by an expert on topics related to your organization’s mission. As investors engage in a meaningful dialogue about your cause, you can inspire them to increase their level of giving.
After the event, follow up with attendees to express gratitude and provide additional information about how they can support your current campaign.
5. Use digital marketing
With a strong digital marketing strategy, you can stand out to potential major investors and convince them to lend their support. Start by reaching out to prospects and current supporters through the following channels:
- Social media: Post information about your upcoming campaigns to social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also use these channels to research potential major investors and better understand their interests, motivations for giving, and professional connections.
- Email marketing: Email marketing campaigns can be a cost-effective way to keep major investors engaged with your organization by providing regular updates on your work, success stories, and impact.
- Website: Add landing pages to your nonprofit’s website that showcase your mission through compelling storytelling and high-quality visuals. Additionally, you should include a form for potential investors to express their interest in making a major donation or scheduling a call with a representative from your organization.
Keep in mind that technology should enhance, rather than replace, personal interactions and relationship-building efforts. For instance, you may use data to tailor your next email blast to the interests of each investor, in addition to hosting in-person meetings and scheduling phone calls.
Sourcing major gifts is an involved process that requires patience, dedication, and teamwork. Be willing to refine your strategy over time and prioritize relationship building over frequent acquisition. By investing in long-lasting connections with major investors, you can create a sustainable funding model and continue to make a difference in the communities you serve.