The Major Gifts Cycle

The Major Gifts Cycle

Rory Green | 2 April 2015

The first instalment for the Institute of Fundraising Scotland’s month-long blog series on Major Gifts, by Rory Green, aka Fundraiser Grrl.

Hello Scotland! This month I will be doing an entire month long series on major gifts. I absolutely LOVE being a major gifts fundraiser, and I am really looking forward to sharing what I know with you.

To begin my series, I wanted to start off by answering some of the most common questions I get asked about major gifts (MG) and being a MG fundraiser.

Why do major gifts matter? When done right, major gifts are an incredibly cost effective way to bring in money for you organisation. Running a successful MG program isn’t easy, it takes a lot of critical thinking and tenaciousness – but certainly is a lot less work than adding another gala or golf tournament. MG are also a much more sustainable way to do funding then transactional models like grant applications or corporate sponsorships, because of the future potential for giving. The longer you work with a donor, and the more they give – the easier it is to secure future gifts.

What is a “major gift”? A major gift is a contribution made by an individual (and sometimes a corporation) – that is a significant amount to the donor and the organisation.  A major gift is often customised for the donor – and targeted for a specific project or programme area (though not always). Many charities will set a line of what constitutes a major gift at five to ten times the annual gift range.  For some, a major gift may be £1,000 and for others it may be closer to £1,000,000.

For me, major gifts boil down to this: look at all of your donors, and chose the top twenty to fifty based on passion for your cause, loyalty, connection to you organisation, and their ability to make a gift. How much could they give if you deeply engaged them, and maximized the value of the relationship? THAT is what major gifts are truly all about. It’s not an arbitrary number; rather the total value for a relationship with donors who are all in.

What is the process? How long does it take?

Throughout the month I will be blogging in depth on the following topics:

  • Step 1: Identification.  Who are the people who are likely, and able, to give a big gift – based on their ability to give, their interest in this cause and their connection to your organisation.

  • Step 2: Discovery. The discovery process is often compared to a first date. This is your chance to learn more about the potential donor and their interests, and think about what projects or programs they may want to learn more about.

  • Step 3: Cultivation. This is the strategic process of building a relationship that will get you closer to being able to ask for a gift.

  • Step 4: Solicitation. Asking a donor to make a gift for a program or purpose.


4a: Negotiation. Often there is some back and forth over the gift – how much the gift will be, how it will be paid out, and sometimes on the way the gift will be used.

  • Step 5: Confirmation and pledge payment.

  • Step 6: Stewardship. Actually spending the money (some charities forget to do that if you can believe it), saying thank you, and showing the donor the impact of their gift. After you have successfully stewarded the donor, it is time to assess if they are ready to be cultivated for another gift.


How can you ask someone for money? I could NEVER do that!

I get this question ALL of the time. How on earth could I ask someone for £1,000,000?!

Well – I guess I don’t think of it as asking really. I see it as an invitation to make the world a better place.

I believe that we all have causes that we are passionate about. I also believe that we all want to leave this world a little better than we found it. That’s why I am a fundraiser; that’s why donors give.

Making a major gift is just one way to help your donors express their values, and achieve their dreams through philanthropy. When done right, there is absolutely nothing scary about it.

“Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving” – Henry Rosso



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