The 4 Best Places to Find New Major Donors for Your Non-Profit

Guest Post by Joe Garecht

Nearly every non-profit I have ever worked with has the same item on the top of its fundraising wish-list: find new major donors to give to our organization. Yet almost all of those non-profits have trouble finding mega-donors. They dream of getting big checks from international philanthropists, but miss the major donor prospects right in their own backyards.

If you want to find new major donors for your non-profit, you need a plan. Start by using these four strategies, which (in my experience) are the absolute best places to find new major donor prospects:

#1: Referrals from Your Board and Donors

Your non-profit’s board members and current major (and mid-level) donors can be a rich source of major donor prospects. Chances are that at least some of your biggest current supporters socialize or work with people who could make a major donation to your organization. What you need is a referral… you need your donors and board members to serve as ambassadors for your organization and introduce you to their friends and colleagues who have major donor potential.

People won’t refer new donors to you unless you ask. This means you need to sit down across from your board members and other supporters (in-person or on the phone) to ask them, “Would you help us meet some of your friends who might also be interested in our work?” Once they make the introduction, your team can take it from there, slowly cultivating the donor and then asking them for a gift.

#2: Turn Mid-Level Donors into Major Donors

Another great way to find new major donors for your non-profit is to turn some of your mid-level donors into major givers by asking them to upgrade. Upgrading your donors is the process of thanking them for their previous gifts, explaining your non-profit’s vision for the future, and asking the donor to make a larger gift than they have in the past.

As with referrals, upgrades don’t happen unless you ask. Thus, you will need to meet with or call your mid-level givers to personally ask them to upgrade. Many successful non-profits have a policy of asking donors for an upgrade every year or every other year.

#3: Hold Non-Ask Events on a Regular Basis

Non-ask events (sometimes called introductory events) are an excellent way of finding new major donors for your non-profit.

When you hold a non-ask event, you ask your board, donors, volunteers and other supporters to bring friends, family and coworkers to a short (60-90 minute) event at your office (or at the home or office of a supporter) to hear about your work and meet your staff. As the name implies, no fundraising is done at a non-ask event. Instead, your staff tracks who attends and follows up with each attendee by phone in the weeks after the event to try to get them more involved with your organization.

Non-ask events are a great, low-pressure way to meet new donors, and while working as both an Executive Director and Development Director of several organizations, I found numerous major donors through non-ask events.

#4: Start Cultivating Corporate Sponsors

Many non-profits that seek out corporate sponsors for their fundraising events make the mistake of seeing those companies as mere event sponsors, without ever taking the leap to build personal relationships with the executives of those companies. The CEOs, presidents, vice-presidents and other managers of the companies who are sponsoring your large fundraising events have the potential to be individual major donors to your non-profit, if you cultivate them.

After your next big event, spend some time reaching out to the executive team at your sponsor companies. Ask them if you can stop by with a small gift to thank them for their support, as well as to give them an update on the event. Use this meeting as the chance to start a longer relationship, one that has the potential to lead to large gifts from the individuals who run the companies that support your work.

Joe Garecht is the founder of The Fundraising Authority and Smart Political Fundraising. He has authored several books on fundraising, including How to Raise More Money for Any Non-Profit, and has consulted with organizations worldwide to help them supercharge their fundraising potential.

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