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6+ technology tips to plan and track major donor fundraising

Grace Duginski
Content marketing specialist
November 20, 2023
Two coworkers collaborating at a table

Nonprofit development professionals know the drill: organizations with major giving programs need a flexible, organized way to track and map out their fundraising asks for high-touch donors—but the process of cultivating relationships with major donors, from planning to tracking to analyzing, shouldn’t be a ton of work.

We’ve messaged and fundraised in your shoes before. That’s why we created the moves management action plans in Bonterra Development (formerly EveryAction) to be the tools we wish we’d had. In this blog, we’ll walk you through how the right moves management action plan in Bonterra Development can support your major donor fundraising every step of the way.

Why is technology so important for major donor fundraising?

First, let’s explain why having the right technology is so essential for major donor fundraising. There are three main reasons:

1. Major gift fundraisers stay in their role for an average of 18 months.

Eighteen months can pass in the blink of an eye—and that level of churn across major gift fundraiser roles can create opportunities to lose valuable data if a staff member leaves without documenting their progress with donors.

2. On average, a major gift can take anywhere from six months to two years to bring in.

Given how quickly major gift officers can come and go compared to how long it may take to land a major gift, it’s important that all the right staff members can access all the right donor data at any given point in a donor’s cycle. We recommend taking an “if it’s not in the database, it didn’t happen” approach to major giving.

3. There’s a clear need for nonprofits to raise more funds from fewer donors.

The ongoing donor demographic shift means fundraisers will need to work with Gen X, a smaller cohort than Baby Boomers, to raise the same level of funds to fuel their work. Additionally, Giving USA’s report for the year 2022 shows that the only growth in individual giving—the biggest slice of the giving pie—happened in the realm of large gifts. Taken together, this information means nonprofits will need to prioritize retaining and upgrading their existing mid-level donors into major donors. The right technology is essential to keeping in touch with the right donors at the right times, without doing more work.

How can major donor fundraising technology help busy nonprofits?

If you’re a fundraiser, you’re famously busy. The right constituent relationship management (CRM) technology should allow you to:

  • Create a donor management process, or action plan, to identify prospective donors,
  • Segment donors based on their potential value and donor profile,
  • Automate best practices for nurturing prospects, and
  • Analyze for performance and improvement opportunities.

This kind of functionality helps you spend less time on rote, repetitive, or technical tasks, and more time on relationship-building tasks that require creativity and a more personal approach.

What should a major donor fundraising action plan look like in your CRM?

When you’re making a prospective donor's action plan, there are some essential data points you’ll want to include. Let’s assume we’re starting at step one in the five-step major giving process—identification—and walk through how you can use your technology to track your progress and support your efforts every step of the way.

1. Plan details

As you identify prospective major donors, use your technology to document that they’re a potential major giver and capture relevant information in their donor profiles. Some of the information you’ll want to capture at the beginning of this journey include:

  • Campaign (is it year-end? A capital campaign? Something else?)
  • Primary solicitor and any secondaries (which staff member owns the relationship? Are there multiple people who are responsible for it?)
  • Start date (when did this relationship begin?)
  • Status and status date (which of the five phases is this donor currently in, and when did they enter that phase?)

2. Your ask—or at least part of it

In order to make asks that are consistently effective, use your technology to track your ask information. These are some of the decisions you’ll need to make and document:

  • When you’ll make your ask.
  • How much the ask will be.
  • The projected amount they’ll give, and the date of that gift.

Pro tip: generally speaking, you should ask for more than you think a major donor will give. If you always hear a quick, easy “yes”, that’s an important sign you need to ask for more!

Later you’ll also want to document:

  • The result of your ask (usually a yes/no) and the date of that result
  • The amount the donor committed to giving

You may need to wait to fill in some of that information until it becomes available, but it’s important to document it in your software as soon as possible so others on (and outside) your team can understand where all your major donors are in their giving cycles.

3. Probability of a gift

Your team can decide how detailed you’d like to be with your estimates, but you’ll want to use your technology to document in a standardized way how likely your donors are to make gifts. In Bonterra Development, you can get sophisticated and use a numerical scale of 0 to 999, but you can also use something as simple as a 1-10 scale if that’s a better fit for your needs.

Make your probability estimate based on three factors:

  • Readiness—is this donor prepared to give?
  • Likelihood—what are the odds that this donor will actually give?
  • Capacity—does this donor have the resources to give?

4. Wealth screening

The right major donor fundraising technology should integrate seamlessly with wealth screening tools like DonorSearch and Wealth Engine in order for major giving officers to collect information on a prospective donor’s background without needing to do in-depth research manually. Integrations with your technology will then enable you to save all of your findings to your donors’ records without needing to shuttle data back and forth by hand—which makes it easier for your data to be accurate and efficiently managed.

Some of the information these screening tools can surface includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Identity information, like age, gender, and marital status.
  • Wealth information, like their net worth and income.

Pro tip: if someone has a very high net worth or income but their charitable gift sizes are relatively low, look for evidence of giving vehicles like a donor-advised fund or family foundation!

  • Business information, like their job title, business type, and whether they’re a board member.
  • Giving history and information, like charitable donation sizes and the total amount they’ve given overall.
  • Real estate and vehicle information, like their total number of properties and whether they own any private aircraft.

Pro tip: purchases like boats and aircraft can signal whether someone may be a better major giving prospect or a better planned giving prospect. Major donors may be likelier to spend money during their lifetime, while planned giving donors may tend to avoid those large purchases and instead make commitments to spend down or give away their wealth as part of their estate planning process.

5. Follow-ups

For every follow-up you schedule, capture these details:

  • What is the deadline for this follow-up due?
  • Who is responsible for it?
  • How will the responsible person follow up with the donor? (will it be a phone call? An in-person coffee or lunch? An email?)
  • How high- or low-priority is this follow-up?
  • Any notes that the responsible person(s) should know about? (Do you want to introduce this donor to a new initiative? Is it time to send over audited financial statements?)

Follow-ups are especially important to document, if the average tenure of a major giving officer is only 18 months. The last thing your organization wants is to jeopardize a strong donor relationship by going radio silent if an officer leaves the organization. If all of your follow-ups are documented in your CRM, a teammate can easily pick up where someone else left off, and no donor will be left behind.

6. Reporting

As a major gift fundraiser, when you have all of your donors’ data populated in your donor management system, you and others on your team can pull regular reports (or schedule them to land in your email inbox at set intervals) in order to stay on top of your follow-ups and workload.

Storing all your donors’ information in one central location also means that major giving directors, chief development officers, volunteer fundraiser supervisors, and others can easily receive a broad view of how well your organization’s major gift fundraising program is performing, where it could use improvement, and a day-to-day view of how many follow-ups are coming up, due, or past due.

Another major giving program facet your team will want to be able to easily report on will be your overall major gift pipeline. This report, called a Moves Management Report in Bonterra Development, will answer questions like:

  • How many action plans do we have in place right now?
  • How many donors are at each of the five stages in the major giving process?
  • How much are we projected to earn in gifts from these donors?
  • How much have donors already committed in gifts?
  • On average, how long do donors stay in an action plan?
  • On average, how long do donors stay in their current status?

Pro tip: understanding how long major donors stay in their current status may be especially relevant for board members, especially if your organization is looking to scale up.

Seeing your donors at a glance

Your donors’ action plans are only as useful as the information you feed into them. By storing all of your donor details in one place, your whole team can track and manage important relationships in an efficient way, which ultimately helps you to raise the funds your organization needs to deliver on your mission and create the kind of change that just can’t wait. Download our complete guide to major giving for even more actionable tips, and talk to us to learn more about how the right technology can support your goals.

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Written by

Grace Duginski
Content marketing specialist
    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing
  • Fundraising ideas