Are you planning on getting major gifts this year?

Or are you waiting for a major donor to just pop up with a large gift?

If you really want to get the most ‘bang for the buck’, plan to spend some time cultivating your top 10 donors this year.

It can be intimidating to get major gifts when you’re just starting out in fundraising. But here’s the scoop: it’s all about building relationships.

Think about your best friend and how your relationship started. You probably weren’t best friends from the first moment you met. It took time for it to develop.

It’s a lot like that with donors.

Here are four simple steps to major gift success.

1. Look for LIA (Linkage, Interest, Ability). A donor must have all three or you just won’t be able to get a major gift from them. Linkage to your organization can come in lots of forms from past volunteer experience to knowing someone on your Board to simply caring about your cause. Your donor must be interested in the work you’re doing, and they must have some ability to give (think disposable income). The combination of these three things is what brings about a gift.

2. Do your homework. Find out all you can about your prospective donor. Learn about their family, their hobbies and what other charities they support. And, find out why they support YOU!

3. Match the donor’s interests with a program/need you have. A “hand-in-glove” fit will help ensure you get the gift and that the donor has a satisfying experience making the gift. If the donor is interested in your after school program, then don’t ask them to support your food pantry.

4. Make the ask. Ask for a specific amount – not a range. If the donor whips out the checkbook, you asked too low and left money on the table. The ideal answer is “I’ll need to check with my _____(spouse, accountant, financial planner, etc.)”.

The best thing you can do is practice.

The more you work on cultivating major donors, the better you’ll get and the more major gifts you’ll get.



  1. Thanks for this informative post on how to make major donations happen!

    Link-Interest-Ability. These are key.

    However, I wonder about whipping out the checkbook. Are you supposed to stretch them so much that they have to talk to their accountant or spouse? I would question this…
    Has this worked for you in the past?

    • Usually if I’m going for a large gift, I want it to be a “stop-and-think” gift – the kind where they need to talk with a spouse or accountant or something. If they write a check immediately, that means I asked too low.


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