[DATA] The 2015 State of Major Gift Fundraising


It’s not a stretch by any means to say that major gift fundraising is an art and a science. Researching, cultivating and asking (and asking and asking) prospects is a tough gig – even when it’s your only responsibility, which it seldom is.

We wanted to know how fundraisers approach major gifts, so we asked our friends and followers. You can view the results of our non-scientific (but fun!) survey below.


  • Most nonprofit organizations do not have a full-time major gift fundraiser or a major gift strategy, despite considering major gifts vital
  • Most nonprofit organizations look to their current donors as major gift prospects
  • Most nonprofit board of directors are disconnected from major gift fundraising activities
  • Most major gifts are only occasionally tied to a project
  • Those organizations not doing major gift fundraising cite a lack of investment in manpower, expertise, strategy, etc. as the primary reason

Raw Data:

How many full-time major gift fundraisers does your organization employ? (they have no other responsibilities except major gifts)

how many major gift fundraisers

  • 0 (it is the responsibility of multiple fundraisers/execs in the org): 67.54%
  • 1: 17.06%
  • 2: 6.19%
  • 3-5: 5.36%
  • 6-10: 2.20%
  • 11-50: 1.10%
  • 50+: 0.55%

Does your organization have a major gift strategy?

do you have a mg strategy

  • You bet: 41.13%
  • Not really: 58.87%

How many major gift donors does your organization currently have?

how many major gift donors

  • 0: 5.23%
  • 1-2: 13.07%
  • 3-4: 12.38%
  • 5-10: 19.26%
  • 11-50: 25.31%
  • 50+: 19.39%
  • Not sure: 5.26%

Are major gift acquisitions a vital part of your fundraising strategy?

how important are mgs

  • We don’t pursue them at all: 11.28%
  • We go after a few, but we don’t really rely on them: 35.35%
  • Multiple major gifts are absolutely vital: 53.37%

In terms of gift size, what constitutes a major gift for your organization?

how do you define a mg

  • Greater than $500: 8.39%
  • Greater than $1000: 43.74%
  • Greater than $10000: 35.90%
  • Greater than 100000: 4.54%
  • $1M or more: 0.28%
  • We’ve never really defined it: 7.15%

How do you identify a major gift prospect? (choose any that apply)

how do you define a mg prospect

  • Current engaged donors in our database: 90.65%
  • Wealthy members of our community: 52.54%
  • Wealthy philanthropists who have given to similar causes: 46.08%

How involved is your board in major gift fundraising? (choose any that apply)

how do board members help with mg

  • Helps identify prospects: 42.50%
  • Helps make introductions to prospects: 38.93%
  • Helps cultivate prospects: 30.67%
  • Helps make the ask: 26.69%
  • Helps make gift acknowledgements: 22.56%
  • Our board doesn’t really help much: 50.76%

How do you designate major gift funds when making an ask?

how are mgs designated

  • Always undesignated: 12.65%
  • Occasionally tied to a project: 66.44%
  • Always tied to a project: 20.91%

If you aren’t doing major gift fundraising, why not? (choose any that apply)

why aren't you doing mgs

  • Lack of time on our part: 48.72%
  • Lack of investment on our part (manpower, expertise, strategy, etc.): 75.32%
  • Lack of suitable projects: 8.01%
  • Our donors don’t have capacity: 9.94%


  • The survey was distributed via email and social media between 2/4/15 and 2/9/15
  • Technology utilized: SurveyMonkey
  • At least 727 unique organizations responded
  • Respondents remained anonymous

How do your major gift fundraising efforts compare to these results? Let us know in the comments below!

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Steven Shattuck

Steven Shattuck

Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang
Steven Shattuck is Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang. A prolific writer and speaker, Steven is a contributor to "Fundraising Principles and Practice: Second Edition" and volunteers his time on the Project Work Group of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, is an AFP Center for Fundraising Innovation (CFI) committee member, and sits on the faculty of the Institute for Charitable Giving. He is the author of Robots Make Bad Fundraisers - How Nonprofits Can Maintain the Heart in the Digital Age, published by Bold and Bright Media.
Steven Shattuck
By |2017-06-10T19:07:01-04:00February 10th, 2015|Major Gifts|


  1. Jerry Grimes February 10, 2015 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    My experience working in the faith-based sector with small and medium non-profits and ministries bears out what this survey found. This saddens me, because the vast majority of organizations are ignoring major gifts to pursue marketing projects and other work that will not be as fruitful or provide the revenue needed to expand their mission. Developing a major gifts program from scratch is hard work, but it is worth the effort. A great tool like Bloomerang, with its built-in analytics and donor retention strategies, can help.

  2. Dan Shephard March 2, 2015 at 4:00 pm - Reply

    A SIGNIFICANT number of charitable organizations have major donors. The report makes it apparent that too many of those organizations aren’t aware of it and, therefore, do little about those donors.

    I believe a big part of the problem lies in the definition of “major gift” at any number of charities. Although many have analyzed their donor rolls and determined the dollar amount that constitutes a major gift for them, far too many haven’t made the effort; some don’t know how.

    Here’s a simple approach (at last for those organizations with databases — like Bloomerang — they can slice and dice). Sort your donors (not gifts, but givers) in descending order of lifetime (or the past three years if you like) giving. Now go down that list, in descending order, and find the 90th percentile — the names of those few donors who have given 90% of all contributions — or the 80th percentile, or the 60th — find the point at which the few of your donors have made the most of your donations. Those are your major donors, and the average of their gifts can become your threshold for a major gift. This will become your baseline, your target for a minimum major gift.

    Now you know what a major gift looks like and who your current major donors are. Count them, then determine what percentage of your TOTAL giving those few individual donors are responsible for. Motivate yourself.

    The next step is to look at the names of those donors just below your threshold. Barring any prospect research capability to identify anyone capable of a gift of $___ or more, the next __ names on your list become your major gift prospect list. Call on them.

    On to the next reason many charities don’t start — small staff with multiple responsibilities. But, if 70% of all your gifts come from only 25% of your donors, doesn’t it just behoove you to increase that number? Look at the number of names on your new prospect list. Divide that number by 50 weeks. If you can commit to calling on even two prospects each week you have started a major gifts program. Can you continue to afford not to?

    It ain’t rocket science; it’s fundraising that will make all the difference to your organization.

  3. Daryl Upsall March 3, 2015 at 4:18 am - Reply

    Many thanks Steve and the Bloomerang team. See you in AFP ICON in Baltimore soon.

    I assume the data is USA or USA and Canada. It would be great how the rest of world compares…happy to push it out there



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