By Tim Gunsolley, Exceed Fundraising Counsel


Great football teams know how to win with minutes left on the clock. And everyone knows that most major gifts are given in the 4th quarter of the year. Here are 10 ways to increase your major gift success between now and December 31.

1. Start Now – Don’t wait until late December to begin conversation with your major donors. Now is prime time to begin your year-end cultivation efforts with major donors through emails, mail, phone calls and personal visits.

2. Be clear about the donation opportunity. Make sure you clearly communicate what you will be asking the donor to consider. A year-end request should be crafted to help your donor understand your vision for increased service and ministry in 2019. Don’t be bashful; if you reach your giving goal by January 1st you’ll be able to grow your ministry and impact more lives. This should be communicated live in-person and in writing. A written proposal, even a simple one-page description, will go a long way in helping the donor know what you’re asking for and why it is needed, and who will be served if the gift is given.

3. Have a plan – You should have a plan for each and every major donor prospect on your file. Some donors you’ll leave for mail and email, while other donors you’ll call or ask to meet personally.

4. Set a goal – Set a financial goal in your mind for each donor on your caseload. It may change in the next 3 months, but having a goal helps predict where you may finish the year.

5. Vary Your Action Steps – Some actions should be just relationship building and some should focus on information sharing. Some should be visits.

6. Pre-establish your activity – The frequency of your communication and actions with major donors should increase between now and the end of December.

7. Remember the personal touch – Send a Christmas card with no ask, just a reminder that you and the ministry are thankful for the relationship.

8. Ask for meetings way ahead. Understand that the holidays are packed with travel, events and commitments. Don’t expect to call for a meeting one week in advance and get a meeting with a busy executive or business owner. You may need to establish your visit schedule several weeks in advance.

9. Segment your list. Some donors on your caseload know you very well. They don’t need a lot of information or hand-holding. Great! Go ahead and talk about a year-end gift. Others however, may need more information before they are comfortable making a commitment. Don’t use the same strategy for both.

10.Finally, don’t give up when Christmas is over. Send an email or mailing to arrive during the last week of December. A quick story: One of our clients received a surprise large gift on December 31. About 11:00 pm on December 31 the ministry’s webmaster had a strange feeling he should check on the website. He saw a person make a $50,000 gift, then another $50,000 gift 2 minutes later, then another $25,000 gift 5 minutes after that. Concerned that someone was confused and clicking “send” too many times, the webmaster called the donor directly, thinking he’d correct the “mistake”. The donor said he intended to make a $125,000 year-end gift, but the “system” maxed out at $50,000. He had to make 3 gifts to give his intended amount.

Many business owners don’t know what they can give until the final few days of the year. If you are expecting a donor to give but you haven’t seen a gift come in before Christmas, don’t despair.

Make your personal cell phone number available to your major donor case load. Text your case load a nice greeting, letting them know you’re “on call if any giving questions arise before year-end. You’ll be surprised come early January just how much a difference your attention to donors made toward your year-end fundraising.

If you’d like to learn more about major gift fundraising, I invite you to watch our free webinar, “The Major Diseases of Major Gift Fundraising” (and their cures). Click below to register.

I know you’ll benefit from it.