Thanks to my guest Hank Lewis for today’s post. I think you’ll like it.

Who Is A Major Gift Prospect??
By Hank Lewis, MA CFRM

When the question of major gift fundraising first arises, many unsophisticated board members, volunteers and staff immediately begin talking about the “rich and famous” — with Bill Gates being the name at the top of almost everyone’s list.

The wrong assumption that many people make — and one that can become a major time waster — is that an organization’s prospect list should contain the names of every conceivable wealthy person.

Indeed, yes, the first steps of a major gifts effort should include the generation of a list of wealthy individuals. But the distinction is whether they are likely to become “prospects.”

Major Gift Prospects are people who:

  1. Have wealth, and may derive satisfaction from using that wealth to advance the causes in which they believe;
  2. Are accessible to you and/or (even better) to current major donors to your organization;
  3. Have a need that will be satisfied by making a significant gift to your organization;

Ideally, but not necessarily, Major Gift Prospects are also:

  1. Aware of the effectiveness of your programs and the business-like manner in which you operate;
  2. Passionate about wanting to see your mission achieved; and,
  3. Involved with your organization and/or its programs, and demonstrate a commitment to the success of your mission.

You can have a long list of wealthy people, but unless they meet the criteria, they’re not “Prospects.” They’re people you’d like to think of as likely donors, but you have no evidence to support that wishful thinking.

Bottom line is, for people to be Major Donor Prospects; you must have enough of a relationship with them to satisfy the above qualifiers, and to know them well enough to recognize/identify their needs.

Major gift fundraising is more about the needs of the donor, than about the needs of the organization.

Have a question about starting or expanding your fundraising program?
Email Hank at With over 30 years of counseling in major gifts, capital campaigns, bequest programs and the planning studies to precede these three, I’ll do my best to answer your question.



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