How to Get Big Gifts and Have Donors Thank You

How to Get Big Gifts and Have Donors Thank You

Sandy Rees, Fundraising Coach extraordinaire, gives us some expert tips on getting big gifts.

What is a Big Gift?

How a Big Gift is defined depends on your organization.  It might be $500 or $5,000 or somewhere in between.  Typically, we think of a Big Gift as cash, but it could be an annuity, stock or something else.  The defining characteristic is that it typically is a “Stop And Think” gift.  The donor has put some thought into it and maybe talked to her Financial person.

Who gives a Big Gift?

A donor who has a strong tie or belief in your organization and who has the means to make a large donation is your best candidate for a Big Gift.  Many times, people will self identify – they will make a good-sized donation through the mail or at an event.

There are services out there that will run your house list through a series of databases to help identify who on your list has deep pockets. Wealthengine and MAGIC are two of those.

The 80/20 rule definitely applies!  Twenty percent of your donors will give 80% of the money and vice versa.

How do you get a Big Gift?

Once you’ve identified some potential Big Givers, you must get to know them and build a relationship.  Find out why they love your organization.

Look for LIA (Linkage, Interest, Ability).  A donor must have all three or you just won’t be able to get a Big Gift from them.

Create a cultivation plan and work it. Examine the ways you are communicating with your donors.  Do you send them a newsletter of some kind?  Do you provide them with a name and phone number and invite them to call you?

How are you thanking your donors when they make a gift?  Think about putting an Acknowledgement Plan in place.  Thanking a donor is not the last step in getting a gift – it’s actually the first step in getting the NEXT gift!

Involve your Board.  Do any of your Board members know your donor?  If so, they can likely provide valuable information or assist in cultivation.

Make sure you have some kind of tracking system in place to keep up with all this data.

Things that can keep you from getting a Big Gift

Cultivating a donor too long.  Don’t spend so much time trying to gather every possible bit of information that you never get around to making the Ask.

You procrastinate making the Ask.  If you get scared and put it off, you are losing an opportunity and you are denying your donor the chance to participate in your organization’s mission.

You don’t listen.  Be careful when you are with your donor.  You want to ask lots of open-ended questions and get them talking.  You won’t learn a thing if you do all the talking.

About Sandy

Sandy Rees is a Fundraising Coach, speaker, author and trainer.  Learn more at

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