A successful Major Gifts fund-raising campaign is not magic. It is a straightforward, concise process of executing well-defined components arranged in a step-by-step progression. I know this to be so because I have seen it done over and over again—starting at A and working through to Z, successfully carrying out campaign after campaign and achieving goal after goal.

Looking at the nuts and bolts of a Major Gifts fund-raising campaign is the best way I know to make its success probable and its process understandable. Breaking down a campaign step-by-step, point-by-point, lets you present it to staff and volunteers of your non-profit organization in a way calculated to increase acceptance of over-all goals and individual responsibilities.

However, if successful fund-raising is simply hard work on the part of the thoroughly prepared, then that preparation must begin before a campaign is planned. An organization contemplating a Major Gifts campaign needs first to assess and evaluate its readiness to raise money. To that end, I suggest that the checklist below be used to self-evaluate your organization’s Major Gifts fund-raising readiness at a special board meeting, at a staff retreat, or as a one-on-one survey of trustees and staff.

Try it yourself and see if it changes your own understanding of your organization’s readiness to raise money from Major Gifts. It’s easy to do. Just check each statement that you can honestly claim to be true for your organization.

Our Major Gifts Fund-Raising Program:

  1. Works from a General Development Plan
  2. Operates with other campaigns without diluting any of our resources
  3. Has a solid base of major gifts from our Board of Trustees
  4. Functions with the guidance of a Development Committee of the Board
  5. Has the staff in place to provide all of the needed campaign resources
  6. Involves and informs our organization’s other departments and personnel
  7. Prioritizes individuals, corporations, foundations for maximum potential
  8. Rates and evaluates prospects for their maximum giving potential
  9. Provides suggested asking amounts to all prospects
  10. Features challenge and matching gifts to attract the gifts of others
  11. Always settles upon achievable goals before we start to solicit
  12. Presents a compelling case for support
  13. Maintains stewardship and cultivation programs for donors and prospects
  14. Projects what numbers of gifts in what amounts we need to meet goals
  15. Promotes gifts via memberships and other named opportunities
  16. Develops campaign time-lines for the leadership and solicitors
  17. Provides job descriptions and duties for the leadership and solicitors
  18. Equips our solicitation team with the best information and instruction
  19. Provides solicitation training with special focus upon the asking process
  20. Features one-on-one and partners for the actual asking of gifts
  21. Seeks to have the best possible prospect to solicitor assignments
  22. Benefits from a full range of relevant publicity and promotion activities
  23. Provides progress reports and other regular campaign updates
  24. Ensures that all requests for contributions are followed to completion
  25. Obtains in all instances, reasons individuals refused or reduced their gifts
  26. Records gifts and collects the money in a timely fashion
  27. Promptly acknowledges donors’ gifts and apprises the respective solicitors
  28. Announces results, gives recognition and thanks donors and volunteers
  29. Reviews and assesses all completed campaigns to improve the next ones

This checklist contains 29 key affirmations I believe a non-profit organization must be able to make before planning and conducting a Major Gifts fund-raising campaign. How many were you able to claim as true for your organization?

Now that you have gone through the entire list, I suggest that you reread it to make sure you understand each affirmation. The points on this checklist are synopses. Please don’t let their brevity get in the way of developing a full understanding of what they represent. On top of that you should evaluate their relevance to your particular situation, look for ways to maximize their effectiveness and value for you, and consider adaptations and adjustments that better tune them to your organization.


Additional Major Gift Campaign Resources