How Much Should You Ask For? – Three Steps for Deciding Major Gift Levels

14th October 2018

If you are seeking to develop a major gifts programme from scratch here are three simple steps you can take to decide the major gift levels for fundraising appeals and face to face asks.

First, you need to determine what is a ‘major gift’ to your charity. For some of my clients a major gift is a donation of £25,000, or £10,000 while for some others a major gift is a donation of £300,000 or more. So, if you are starting out in major donor fundraising make some time today or tomorrow to look at your charity’s database to identify the largest single gifts made to your charity in the last 3 – 5 years. If you want to focus on individuals only make sure you exclude legacy gifts and gifts from trusts, churches or events.

Examine the range of gifts more closely and use the information you have to create some major giving ranges for one-off gifts which might look like:

£500 –  £1000  (10 donors)

£1,001  – £2,500  (17 donors)

£2,5001 – £5,000 (7 donors)

£5,001 – £10,000  (4 donors)

£10,000+  (5 donors)

Secondly,  within each giving range determine what amount is the mode of that range – that is the amount that appears most often within that giving range. I often use the mode as the first  money handle in fundraising appeals or face to face asks to major donors.

However, because encouraging major donors to give more is as important as retention you should consider asking major donors to give a gift that is for example 10% or even 20% more than the highest gift they have given in the previous year.  This second, increased amount could become the second money handle in your fundraising appeals or face to face meetings with major donors. When appropriate you might even consider major donors to increase their giving by 50% when you know that they have the capacity to give significantly more than they are currently giving.

As a rule of thumb, you should aim to get most of the major donors who gave last year to give again this year and get at least 1 in three of to increase their giving to your charity.

Thirdly, some of your monthly donors are major donors too! If you look at the example above you might think that the charity has just 43 major donors. Right? Wrong!  What about the donors who give say £100 or £300 or even £500 pounds a month?  They might not give £1,000 in one go but they do give £1,200 or £3,000 or more annually.

These donors are often the ones you can upgrade into major donors and legacy donors.

Although you might not have the capacity to do face to face meetings with these donors once you have gathered some useful insights about their giving patterns you can put in place some activities to upgrade their giving also.

For example, you can look at the monthly amounts donated by regular donors who give say £50 or £100 or more monthly to your charity and you can determine what is the mode of monthly donations for different giving ranges – you can use those gift amounts and as money handles in special one off appeals for these donors to encourage them to go the extra mile and support a special project.  You can stretch the gift amounts to a higher level to by adding 20% – 30% to each mode within a giving range data set to upgrade these donors.

Some of these donors who have given regularly to your charity for 5 years or more are also likely to be some of the best prospects for your legacy giving programme.

Whatever you do, using some of these simple calculations will enable you to increase the effectiveness of your major donor fundraising via appeals or face to face meetings.