The Importance of Major Gifts

Earlier this month CCS Fundraising published its annual A Guide to Philanthropy in the US.  America continues to be a very generous country with more than $427 billion contributed to worthy charities during 2018.  The report highlights numerous areas in development that are noteworthy from increased volunteerism (up 21% since 2016) to decreases in giving to religious institutions (down 1.5% from the previous year) that can be helpful to fundraisers trying to understand how donors think and what motivates giving.  A big takeaway that stands out, however, is the increased importance of major gifts and stewarding relationships with High Net Worth (HNW) individuals for successful charities. 

The following are a few things you might consider regarding starting or enhancing your major gifts plan based on the Guide’s findings:

  1. There are more millionaires than ever before in history!  There are over 17.3 million millionaires in the United States and over 870,000 individuals joined that list in the last year.  That’s an increase of 5% from year to year and is a great sign for organizations looking to grow major gift income. 
  2. Engage Your Best Prospects Through Volunteer Opportunities.  90% of HNW households gave to charity in 2017 and almost 50% of High Net Worth Individuals volunteered for a charity.  Advisory Boards, Event Committees, Guest Speaking Opportunities or good old fashioned mission oriented volunteering (helping at the blood bank or soup kitchen) are great ways to help individuals connect to your organization.  When they do they are often more likely to give to those organizations they serve.
  3. Close to 50% of HNW Individuals have a giving strategy and a giving budget.  Major donors are planners so if you haven’t discussed charitable estate planning with you biggest donors you should start today.  When bringing up the topic of estate gifts you can preface the conversation with a statement like, “I know that you are financially savvy and have likely thought about your estate plan but have you considered charitable giving as part of that plan?”  Their answer will open the door to how they view giving and, more specifically, how they view giving to your organization.
  4. Start with Your Mission.  The number one reason cited as to why a HNW individuals give to charity is “Alignment with personal values” (74%).  The most effective major gift solicitations always open with the heart(mission) and close with the head (statistics/impact).  As long as you stay true to your mission and look for ways to connect that mission to prospective donors you will see your income (and more specifically your major gift income) continue to grow.   

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