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.