In 2015, Bloomerang reported findings you can review by clicking here, that fewer than 20 percent of nonprofits had someone actively working major donors. I realize that many organizations simply don’t have the staff to hire fundraisers dedicated to cultivating and soliciting major donors.

However, every nonprofit—large or small—should be in the business of getting major donors. Individual donors make up the vast majority of donations to philanthropy. And, major donors can help your charity get a project off the ground, invest in capacity building or go a long way toward helping you achieve sustainability.

So, how do you find major donors if you have limited resources?

  1. Other Charities: One of the ways fundraisers find donors for their organizations is to look at similar nonprofits and see who might be donating to the “competitor.” You can find information about major donors to other charities by looking at annual reports or, sometimes, nonprofits list significant supporters on their website. You can also look to organizations that have similar interests. For example, if your group works academically with children after school, you can look into nonprofits that perhaps work with child mentorship or youth sports.

Once you’ve got a list of names, take the time to do some research. More prominent citizens in your community might be owners or high-level executives in corporations. In today’s world, most people have some digital footprint so you can learn about them. Philanthropic major donors tend to have a few organizations they like to support, and with an Internet search, you may find charitable news stories.

  1. Institutional Funders: Many small nonprofits rely on grants from corporations or foundations. If you have some institutional funders that have been supporting your group for a year or two, they are are a great resource. Schedule a meeting with them and tell them that to develop your sustainability, or grow a program or effort, you’re interested in developing some major donors.

Ask for advice from your institutional funders about potential leaders in the community that they may know who could potentially be interested in your organization. If you’ve got a particularly close relationship with a corporate or foundation funder, ask them if they would be willing to host a small event (as little as 10 or 20 people) or business meeting so their colleagues and individuals can learn more about your nonprofit or a unique project you’re planning.

  1. Political Donors: If you happen to know individuals who are politically active and giving money, you want to pay attention. According to this article, The predictive power of political giving is huge:
  • An individual who has given at least $2,500 in his/her lifetime to federal political campaigns is 14 times more likely to give a philanthropic donation than someone who has not.
  • An individual who has given at least $500 in his/her lifetime to federal political campaigns is 5 times more likely to give a philanthropic donation than someone who has not.”

We know that generally speaking nonprofits shouldn’t be involved in political activities. But that doesn’t mean that if you know individuals through personal connections or those of your board members, that you shouldn’t look a little deeper into their philanthropic interests.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: How to Dominate Your Fundraising to Create Your Success” (Free Digital Download)

© 2017 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.