Attracting Major Donors: What They Look for in a Nonprofit Partner

The Keela Team • May 30, 2023

Whether you’re a seasoned nonprofit professional or just starting out in the world of fundraising, understanding the power of major donors and major giving is essential for the success of your organization. While all types of donors are important for a nonprofit’s growth, with an average of 80% of nonprofit funding coming from major donors, it’s critical that your organization invests in a major gift strategy.

Major donors, often referred to as philanthropic champions (or even big donors), are individuals or institutions who make significant financial contributions to support the causes they believe in. These generous benefactors play a pivotal role in the sustainability and growth of nonprofits, providing the necessary resources to achieve impactful change.

In this article, we will delve into the definition of major donors, shed light on their importance for nonprofits, and explore effective strategies to attract and engage these invaluable contributors. Get ready to unlock the secrets to securing major donors and supercharging your organization’s mission and major gift program!

Identifying Major Donors

You may be asking yourself, how do I find donors? To attract major donors, it’s critical to begin your journey by researching and identifying potential donors through donor prospecting. This initial step is key in understanding who may have the capacity and inclination to become major donors for your nonprofit organization.

By conducting thorough prospect research beforehand, you can uncover hidden gems within your existing donor database or identify major donors and new individuals or institutions who align with your cause. Donor research allows you to make informed decisions and prioritize your efforts effectively. Finding donors is never easy, but don’t be discouraged, they’re out there!

Segmenting Donors by Giving Capacity: The Power of Prioritization

Once you have a list of potential donors, it’s time to segment them based on their giving capacity. Not all donors have the financial ability to make major contributions, and that’s perfectly fine. By segmenting your prospective donors, you can focus your resources and energy on cultivating donor relationships with those who have the capacity to make significant contributions. By doing so, you maximize your chances of attracting major donors while also ensuring that you engage and appreciate every donor at an appropriate level.

Get Started on Segmenting Your Donors with a FREE Template!

With this donor segmentation template, you can define segmentation criteria, group donors, assign scores to each donor segment, and more!

Creating a Donor Profile: Get to Know Your Prospects

To effectively engage major donors, it’s essential to create detailed donor profiles. A donor profile helps you understand the motivations, interests, and giving patterns of your major donor prospects. It provides valuable insights into their personal and professional lives, enabling you to tailor your approach and communication to resonate with their specific interests.

When creating a donor profile, consider including information about current donors such as their philanthropic and political giving history, causes they have supported, preferred communication channels, and any contacts of individual donors and the interest they may have with your organization.

Utilizing Data to Identify Major Donors: The Power of Analytics

In the digital age, data is a powerful tool to identify major donors. By leveraging data analytics and mining your donor database, you can uncover patterns and trends that highlight potential major donors. Look for indicators such as past giving history, frequency of donations, and any major gifts they may have made to other organizations.

Additionally, utilize wealth screening services or research platforms to gather insights on a prospective donor’s financial capacity, assets, and philanthropic involvement. Armed with this information, you can prioritize your outreach efforts and tailor your messaging to resonate with the interests and values of potential major donors.

Building Major Donor Cultivation Plan

Now that you have identified your potential major donors, it’s time to focus on cultivating strong and meaningful relationships with them. Cultivation is the process of engaging and connecting with donors, building rapport, and inspiring their continued support.

Building a Relationship with Donors: The Foundation of Philanthropy

At the core of cultivating and soliciting major donations from donors is the art of building relationships. It’s essential to establish a solid foundation of trust, transparency, and open communication. Take the time to get to know your donors personally, beyond their financial contributions. Reach out to them through personalized messages, phone calls, or face-to-face meetings. Show genuine interest in their passions, values, and motivations for supporting your cause. Building a relationship based on mutual respect and shared goals is the key to long-term engagement and major gifts.

Personalizing Engagement Strategies: Tailoring to Individual Interests

Every major donor is unique, with their own set of interests and motivations. Personalizing your engagement strategies is crucial for making a meaningful connection.

Use the donor profile you created earlier to understand their preferences and interests. Tailor your communication and outreach efforts accordingly, whether it’s sharing impact stories, inviting them to events or volunteer opportunities, or involving them in exclusive giving circles. By showing that you value and understand their individual philanthropic journey, you deepen their commitment to your organization.

Major Donor Profile Template Graphic

Keep Track of Major Donors and Start Raising More for Your Cause.

With this FREE template, you can keep track of giving history, record wealth indicators, prepare for your next major gift appeal, and more!

Creating Opportunities for Donor Involvement: From Passive Support to Active Engagement

Major donors often seek more than just financial contributions; they desire to make a tangible impact with their support. Creating opportunities for donor involvement allows them to become active participants in your organization’s mission.

Consider involving major donors in advisory boards, offering them opportunities to visit program sites, or providing exclusive access to behind-the-scenes experiences. By involving them in decision-making processes and showcasing the tangible outcomes of their contributions, you deepen their connection and inspire even greater giving.

Ensuring Donor Retention: Nurturing Lifelong Partnerships

Retaining major donors is as important as acquiring them (especially since it can cost 5x more to acquire a new donor than to retain an existing one!). Once you’ve established a strong relationship, it’s crucial to nurture it over time.

Regularly update donors on the progress and impact of your programs, demonstrate the value of their contributions, and express gratitude for their ongoing support. Stay in touch through personalized communication, exclusive fundraising events, and regular reports. Consider establishing a donor stewardship program that focuses specifically on major donors, providing them with dedicated support and recognition. By investing in donor retention, you build lifelong partnerships that sustain your organization’s mission.

Soliciting Major Donors

As you progress in cultivating relationships with major donors, the time will come to make the ask—the crucial moment where you invite them to make a significant financial contribution to your nonprofit.

Crafting an Effective Ask: The Power of Personalization

When it comes to soliciting major donors, one size does not fit all. Crafting an effective ask requires personalization based on your knowledge of the donor’s interests, values, and giving capacity.

Tailor your major donation ask to align with their motivations and desired impact. Clearly articulate the specific project, program, or initiative that their major gift will support and explain how it aligns with their philanthropic goals. By personalizing your ask, you demonstrate that their contribution is both valued and integral to achieving meaningful change.

Offering a Menu of Giving Options: Empowering Donors’ Choice

Major donors appreciate having options when it comes to their giving. Offer a menu of giving options that cater to different levels of financial commitment. This might include opportunities for one-time major gifts, multi-year pledges, endowments, named funds, or legacy giving.

You can also consider offering them a menu off opportunities to allocate their major gift. During the cultivation phase, it’s important to understand each major donor’s interest in your mission work. When making your ask, you can offer them the opportunity to allocate their major gift to the area of your mission that they are most invested in.

Providing a range of options allows donors to choose the avenue that resonates most with their giving capacity and personal preferences. Remember, giving is a deeply personal act, and empowering donors with choices enhances their sense of ownership and investment in your organization’s mission.

Providing Impactful Metrics: Demonstrating the Value of Their Gift

Major donors want to see the impact of their contributions. Provide them with impactful metrics that clearly demonstrate the value and outcomes of their giving. Share success stories, testimonials, and tangible results of your organization’s work. Utilize data and statistics to illustrate the transformational change their gift can make.

When major donors can see the direct correlation between their support and the positive impact it creates, they are more likely to feel motivated and compelled to give at a significant level.

Building a Case for Support: Inspiring Confidence and Trust

A strong case for support is essential when soliciting major donors. Clearly articulate the need for their financial investment and the unique role they play in advancing your organization’s mission. Present a compelling narrative that highlights the urgency, significance, and potential for lasting change that their major gift represents. Build trust and instill confidence by demonstrating your organization’s track record, credibility, and sound financial stewardship.

A well-crafted case for support helps major donors understand the importance of their contribution and the role they play as true catalysts for social impact.

Stewarding Major Gift Donors

Securing a major gift is just the beginning of a long and mutually rewarding relationship with your major donors. Stewardship is the art of nurturing and maintaining these vital partnerships, ensuring that major gift donors feel valued, appreciated, and connected to the impact of their contributions.

Recognizing Donor Contributions: Showcasing Gratitude and Appreciation

One of the most important aspects of stewarding donors is recognizing and expressing gratitude for your major gift donors’ contributions. Acknowledge their generosity promptly and sincerely. Personalize your thank-you messages, whether through handwritten notes, phone calls, or personalized emails, and source special thank you gifts for major donors. Consider hosting special recognition events (there are lots of great in-person or virtual donor appreciation event ideas online) or creating donor recognition programs that publicly acknowledge their support.

By showing genuine appreciation, you reinforce their sense of pride and affiliation with your organization, fostering a deeper connection that transcends financial contributions.

Reporting on Outcomes: Keeping Donors Informed and Inspired

Major donors are invested in the impact of their contributions. Regularly report on the outcomes and progress made possible by their generosity. Share success stories, testimonials, and specific examples that demonstrate the tangible difference their major gifts have made. Provide comprehensive reports that highlight the goals achieved, the lives touched, and the community transformed through their support.

By keeping donors informed and inspired, you reinforce their confidence in your organization’s ability to raise money to effect change and cultivate a sense of shared accomplishment.

Communicate Your Impact with this FREE Storytelling Toolkit.

Use this toolkit to discover the key elements of a good impact story and learn how to create yours. Plus, you will get access to a template so you can get a head start.

Offering Opportunities for Ongoing Engagement: Cultivating a Sense of Partnership

Major donors often seek meaningful engagement beyond their financial contributions. Offer them opportunities to become more deeply involved in your organization’s work. Invite them to exclusive events, insider briefings, or intimate gatherings where they can interact with staff, beneficiaries, and fellow supporters. Create advisory boards or committees that allow major donors to lend their expertise and insights.

By providing avenues for ongoing engagement with current major gift donors and other existing donors, you foster a sense of partnership and empower donors to play an active role in shaping your organization’s future.

Maintaining Communication: A Foundation of Trust and Transparency

Consistent and transparent communication is vital to stewarding major donors effectively. Keep them informed about your organization’s activities, challenges, and future plans. Regularly share updates, impact reports, and newsletters that highlight the progress made possible through their support. Be responsive to their inquiries and provide opportunities for open dialogue.

Remember, strong relationships are built on trust and transparency. By maintaining open lines of communication, you nurture a sense of trust and confidence in your major donors, encouraging their continued support.

How Keela Can Help with Major Donor Fundraising

When it comes to managing and maximizing your major donor fundraising efforts, having the right tools and resources can make a world of difference. Keela, a comprehensive donor management and fundraising software, is designed to streamline your major donor fundraising process, helping you cultivate and steward relationships with your most generous supporters.

Donor Management and Fundraising Software: A Holistic Solution

Keela offers a holistic solution for nonprofit organizations, combining donor management and fundraising functionalities in one user-friendly platform. It provides a centralized database where you can store and access all your major donor information, including donor profiles, giving history, and engagement activities.

With Keela, you can effectively track and manage your major donor pipeline, ensuring that no important details or interactions fall through the cracks.

Streamlining the Major Donor Fundraising Process: Efficiency at Your Fingertips

Keela streamlines the major donor fundraising process, allowing you to focus your time and energy on building relationships and securing major gifts. The software provides intuitive features that automate repetitive tasks, such as data entry, finding major donors, gift processing, and communication workflows. With streamlined processes, you can free up valuable resources and dedicate more time to personalizing your engagement strategies and making meaningful connections with your major donors.

Features and Benefits for Nonprofits: Unleashing Your Fundraising Potential

Keela offers a range of features specifically designed to enhance major donor fundraising for nonprofits. Here are some key features and benefits that can empower your organization:

AI-Powered Insights

If you’re wondering how to get donors for your nonprofit, look no further than Keela. Keela’s AI technology can analyze donor data, wealth indicators, and demographic information to identify potential major donors. By examining factors such as giving history, donation or major gift frequency, and contribution amounts, Keela’s AI can uncover hidden opportunities and provide insights into donors with the capacity to make significant contributions. This powerful feature helps you save time and resources to identify major donors and potential donors within your existing database, allowing you to focus your efforts on cultivating and nurturing these valuable relationships.

Project and Communication Management

Stay organized and never miss a follow-up with project and communication management features. Set reminders for important donor interactions, track email communication, and manage your major donor stewardship activities efficiently.

Reporting and Analytics

Gain valuable insights into your major donor fundraising efforts with Keela’s reporting and analytics capabilities. Track progress towards your fundraising goals, measure campaign success, and generate reports that showcase the impact of major donor contributions.

Integration with Other Nonprofit Tools

Keela seamlessly integrates with popular third-party tools, such as payment processors and email marketing platforms, allowing you to leverage existing systems and further streamline your major donor fundraising workflows.

Keela’s donor management and fundraising software is a game-changer for nonprofits seeking to enhance their major donor fundraising efforts. By utilizing its features and benefits, you can unlock your organization’s fundraising potential, foster strong relationships with major donors, and achieve impactful results.

Streamline Your Major Donor Fundraising Process with Keela!

See how Keela’s donor management and fundraising tools can help organizations to cultivate and steward relationships with major donors.

Challenges and Opportunities of Major Donor Fundraising

While major donor fundraising holds immense potential for nonprofits, it also comes with its own set of challenges. Understanding these obstacles and proactively seeking solutions is key to harnessing the full potential of major donor support.

Potential Obstacles of Major Donor Fundraising: Navigating the Roadblocks

  1. Limited Access: Gaining access to major donors can be a challenge, especially when they have a busy schedule or are heavily solicited by other organizations. Standing out and capturing their attention requires strategic and personalized approaches.
  2. Donor Engagement: Major donors expect personalized, meaningful engagement. Building and maintaining relationships with these supporters demands time, effort, and a deep understanding of their interests and motivations. To properly nurture these relationships, it’s important to have dedicated relationship managers for your major donors.
  3. Timing: Timing plays a crucial role in major donor fundraising. Finding the right moment to approach potential donors with the right ask can be challenging. Many factors, such as economic conditions, personal circumstances, or competing philanthropic interests, can influence their giving decisions.

How to Overcome Challenges: Strategies for Success

  1. Build Relationships: Focus on building authentic and genuine relationships with major donors. Invest time in getting to know them, their interests, and philanthropic goals. Tailor your communication and engagement strategies to demonstrate that you value their partnership beyond financial contributions.
  2. Personalization and Customization: Tailor your approach to each major donor, emphasizing their unique interests and desired impact. Craft personalized asks, engagement opportunities, and recognition gestures that resonate with their specific passions and priorities.
  3. Strategic Timing and Planning: Research and understand the timing that aligns with major donors’ giving patterns and preferences. Strategically plan your solicitations, ensuring that you approach them at opportune moments and present compelling cases for support.

Future Trends and Opportunities: A Glimpse Ahead

  1. Technology and Data Analytics: Advancements in technology and data analytics will continue to play a crucial role in major donor fundraising. Utilizing tools like AI-powered intelligence and sophisticated donor management software can help nonprofits uncover insights, identify major donor and major gift prospects and potential donors, and streamline their fundraising efforts.
  2. Collaborative Partnerships: Collaborative partnerships among nonprofits, corporations, and major donors are on the rise. Major donors are seeking strategic alliances and opportunities to maximize their impact. Nonprofits can explore innovative collaborations to leverage resources, expertise, and networks for mutual benefit.
  3. Donor-Advised Funds and Impact Investing: Donor-advised funds and impact investing are gaining popularity among major donors. Nonprofits can explore ways to align their programs and projects with these trends, showcasing opportunities for major gift donors to make a significant impact through targeted giving and socially responsible investments.

Navigating the challenges and seizing the opportunities in major donor fundraising requires adaptability, strategic thinking, and a focus on building strong relationships. By overcoming obstacles, implementing effective strategies, and staying ahead of emerging trends, nonprofits can unlock the full potential of major donor support and drive transformative change in their missions.


In conclusion, major donor fundraising holds immense potential for nonprofits seeking to drive transformative impact. While it comes with its own set of challenges, proactively addressing them can unlock incredible opportunities for sustainable growth and mission fulfillment. By building relationships, personalizing engagement, strategizing timing, and staying ahead of emerging trends, nonprofits can navigate the complexities of major donor fundraising with confidence.

It is crucial to recognize the importance of major donor support. These philanthropic champions provide the necessary resources to propel organizations forward, fueling meaningful change and creating a lasting legacy. With their generosity and partnership, nonprofits can reach new heights and make a profound difference in the lives of those they serve.

To embark on your major donor fundraising journey and explore how Keela can help you reach your goals, we invite you to book a call with a member of our dedicated team. Our experts understand the unique challenges nonprofits face and can provide tailored guidance and support to enhance your major donor fundraising efforts.

Don’t miss out on the opportunities that major donor fundraising offers. Take action today and book a call with the Keela team to discuss your major donor fundraising needs. Together, we can harness the power of major donors and propel your organization’s mission forward.

Click here to book a call with our team!

Headshot of Meredith Gray

About the author:

Meredith Gray
Head of Marketing, Keela

Meredith has always had a passion for work that makes an impact. Having spent over 7 years working in fundraising, she has gained extensive knowledge in marketing, peer-to-peer, events, and sponsorship and firmly believes that all successful fundraising strategies start with your data.

Having experienced it first-hand, she understands the challenges nonprofits face when building a fundraising strategy and loves connecting with other like-minded fundraisers to brainstorm new and creative ways to leverage data to increase revenue. When not working, Meredith can be found trying out one of Toronto’s diverse restaurants, breaking a sweat in a spin class, or researching her next travel destination.