October 17, 2023 | Categories DonorPerfect Fundraising Software, Featured, Fundraising Strategies

Major Donors Are Within Your Reach

Fundraising can be a tireless pursuit – asking thousands of individuals for small donations to accumulate enough to serve your mission. Imagining a handful of donors funding an entire project seems like a dream. However, that is exactly what a major donor can do.  

Finding major donors can often feel like an insurmountable task. Asking people for substantial sums of money is intimidating, especially if you’re asking the wrong people. When you find the right people to ask – with the same passions as your organization and the resources you need – it comes easier than you think.

Here are seven tips to start building your major donor base.

Tip #1: Start small.

When you’re asking for a major gift, you might think you need to throw a wide net to increase your chances of finding the right donor. However, when it comes to major donor cultivation, that is simply not true. Instead, start small and start with those you and your team are most familiar with. 

A top indicator of a major donor prospect is someone who has an affinity for your cause. So, before you begin looking outside of your existing donor circle, start with those you already know and who have proven to have a passion for your work. Your database could be tracking more than a few potential major donors flying under your radar.

Tip #2: Run your financial reports.

So how do you find these potential donors hiding in plain sight? Evaluate your database for recency, frequency, and monetary information. Run reports to show donors who have given in the recent past, who have given multiple times and who have contributed larger sums than your average donor. In this case, you don’t need to look at the amount of any single gift, instead look at a donor’s cumulative gift total to see if they have given more than average. 

Gift Frequency Analysis example

DonorPerfect has Recency and Frequency financial reports to make finding these donors easier than ever.

Tip #3: Volunteers love your cause.

When it comes to searching for individuals who are devoted to your cause, there is no better place to look than your pool of dedicated volunteers. Of course, it’s not appropriate to approach all of your volunteers as potential major donors; it takes more than just an affinity for your organization to offer major financial support. A major donor prospect also needs to have the ability to make a substantial gift. Focusing on this group, though, will help you to narrow down your potential targets so you’re not doing a deep dive into just any name that comes across your desk. 

You need to determine what their financial capacity might be. Sometimes it’s as easy as running a gift history report in your own database, but you may also need to work a little harder to uncover their wealth indicators. 

Common wealth indicators:

  • Job title
  • Real estate holdings
  • Political contributions
  • Past giving history 
  • Board positions

Interview those you work with who may be familiar with your volunteers. You can also scour social media profiles to see what pieces of information you can glean. If you find helpful information online, try to substantiate your information with another source. 

Check out tip #7 for an even easier method of identifying major gift prospects.

Tip #4: Ask a friend of a friend.

Once you’ve exhausted your own personal and professional connections, then it’s time to start looking a little further outside of your network. Think of this strategy a bit like crowdfunding, utilize the network of people you know to find new potential donors. Ask your coworkers, volunteers, friends, board members, and other professional or personal connections to introduce you to those in their inner circle. 

Give your connections a profile of the type of person you are looking for. Present a very clear picture to get the best results. 


  • Philanthropically driven
  • Has interest in your mission/cause
  • Board involvement 
  • Makes political contributions
  • Has real estate holdings
  • Is a major donor for another organization
Donor Persona Checklist Mockup

If you need help to create a depiction of your ideal major donor, check out our guide on donor personas.

Tip #5: Ask for an introduction.

If it’s possible, ask your acquaintances to make an introduction for you and even ask them to inquire how their friend might like to be approached by your organization. Take advantage of the inside information; it’s rare you’ll get to know a prospective donor’s preference without a prospect research tool (read tip #7 to learn more). So, if they’d like to have a phone conversation, or have you send some information in the mail first, you’ll know how to begin your outreach efforts.

Tip #6: Don’t shy away at networking events.

If you host or attend fundraising events, this is an excellent opportunity for you to network and build your circle of friends. You may find that there are a lot of like-minded individuals, especially at fundraising events. Remember, the first and biggest hurdle of finding a major donor is understanding that a person has to have a passion for your cause. So, at events, let your passion shine! You are driven and committed to the work you do for your organization. Let people know about it and see who else it resonates with. Not only will you be an excellent advocate for your organization, you may find that you acquire more than just your next major donor. 

Tip #7: Try donor prospect research.

After all the hard work you’ve put in, it can help to have a tool in your back pocket to solidify your efforts. You won’t always have all the information you need to pursue a prospect, especially when your information is coming second hand. Having a donor prospect research tool that integrates with your fundraising platform can provide the added insight you need to understand if you truly have a good candidate to pursue as a major donor. 

DonorSearch dashboard screenshot with lots of different donor stats

DonorSearch is an excellent prospect research tool that integrates seamlessly with DonorPerfect to search out and discover your pool of potential major donors.

Your next major donor is never too far away. With a little investigation and lots of relationship building, your next mission could be funded by one outstanding donor. If you need more help uncovering the hidden gems in your database, download our free guide below to finding major donors in your data.

Find Your Next Major Donor

Download your free guide

Christy S
Meet the author: Christy Smaglio

Christy attended Kutztown University, receiving a degree in English Literature. During her final year of school, she interned for a non-profit domestic violence agency writing grants, thank-you letters, and aiding in their fundraising events. She continued her non-profit work for another four...

Learn more about Christy Smaglio
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