6 Essentials for a major donor programme

What needs to be in place for successful major donor fundraising? There are 6 generally accepted fundamental factors.


by Mike Bartlett | Money Tree Fundraising

We are often asked what needs to be in place for successful major donor fundraising, to which the answer varies depending on the charity. However, there are 6 generally accepted fundamental factors (I don’t claim to have invented these!), which should act as the core of your major donor programme. You should have:

  1. A genuine programme plan (how are you going to address the need, with specific outcomes and costs?) 
  2. A donor-centric culture (meeting the needs of donors) 
  3. A leadership culture that understands major gifts (across all key departments – imagine if you were the donor, who would you want to talk to?) 
  4. Sound and accessible financial project information (expect to be asked difficult questions, so be prepared) 
  5. Sound donor process (IT, data, record keeping, thanking – all essential for donor stewardship) 
  6. Measurable outcomes (what impact will you tell your donor that their gift made? – put yourself in the shoes of the donor).

All of these take time and effort to get in place. Expect resistance and apathy, but do not be disheartened. You are far better investing energy and resources into the top 20% of your donors than the remaining 80%.

When it comes to asking donors for money, remember the ask is not just about fundraisers talking about an emotive cause. A powerful fundraising proposition requires:

  • Clear vision and goals 
  • Clarity on the problem 
  • Proposed solutions with benefits and evidence 
  • Urgency 
  • Action Plan 
  • Reporting of outputs, outcomes and impact

Make sure you have these elements in place, but don’t let that be an excuse not to ask! Like all things worth the effort, practice and patience, followed by more practice will take away all fears.


Mike recently ran Kick Start your Major Donor Fundraising in Bristol for members of SWIDN. The course is available again in London on 25th May. 

For any nonprofits that would like to start major donor fundraising, need to get better at it or are major donor sceptics, you need to speak to Mike from Money Tree Fundraising. He really knows his stuff, he's been there, done it and is now sharing his knowledge with others, through coaching and workshops. Mike can equip you with the skills to find and develop major donors and help you overcome the barrier of management or trustee buy-in.

Mike is happy to offer a free 30 mins 'major donor readiness' phone call to any members of SWIDN. Please contact info@swidn.org.uk if you're interested.