Why Major Gifts Should Drive Your 2023 Development Plan

At the heart of fundraising are the supporters who believe in your cause and want to place their trust, and dollars, into your organization to make a change in the world. Stepping into 2023, organizations and their donors are likely going to navigate a recession together­–impacting giving and the philanthropic landscape. The good news? With an informed development plan, there is no reason that 2023 can’t be your best fundraising year to date and a prime year for major giving. In fact, setting your sights on major gifts this year may be more important than ever.

Understanding the role of major donors, in tandem with an informed development plan, are the foundations of a securing a major gift in 2023. The latest resource from the Blackbaud Institute, Development Plan Toolkit: Your Three-Step Guide to Strategic Fundraising offers a pathway to reaching and retaining major donors:

Step 1: Reflect on successes and opportunities.

  • Using the toolkit’s free Reflection worksheet, gather data on your current revenue streams, audience, donor retention rates, and more.
  • Now that you’ve collected the data from years past and reflected on it alongside colleagues across departments, you can document your development activities and the challenges or learning experiences that arose.

Step 2: Identify specific, realistic goals.

  • Work with the finance team and other stakeholders to ensure that your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Bound).
  • Goals may be dollar-based—e.g., raise $100,000 via major gifts; volume-based—e.g., retain 75% of previous year’s donors; or activity-based—e.g., establish relationships with 100 new prospects.
  • Use the Annual Opportunity Assessment worksheet to find opportunities to retain and attract new donors and expand your modes of giving.
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Step 3: Align those goals to proven strategies.

  • By now, you have a clear picture of your opportunities and goals, so it’s time to build a work-back calendar and activate your organizations around a development plan. Your strategy should:
    • Clarify expectations, roles, and goals.
    • Outline specific actions and the necessary budget to achieve those goals.
    • Establish the metrics that will determine which elements work, and which offer opportunities for improvement.
  • With these insights in mind, use the included Engagement Strategy worksheet to define your outreach for distinct personas, informed by unique data for differing levels of donors, including major prospects and supporters.

Why is 2023 the right time to focus on major giving?

Donors are in the driving seat, with a plethora of giving options distributed across a smaller sample of the population. The number of households giving to charitable organizations has decreased in recent years, along with the number of organizations that they give to. However, overall giving continues to rise year over year, according to recent data from the Blackbaud Institute Index.

In the face of economic uncertainty, major donors are some of the most resilient. The S&P 500 is the strongest indicator of wealth and, therefore, a direct correlation to high-net-worth giving. The recent report Philanthropy Through Recession: How Savvy Organizations Weather Uncertain Times, show that while giving follows the general up- and downward trends across time, it typically lags behind stock market volatility by about two years, effectively shielding philanthropy against short-term fluctuations. The impact of major donors during recessions are even more powerful when organizations are primed to accept non-cash donations, ultimately diversifying their revenue streams.

Tools for Success

Using tools like a CRM and accounting software will give you a line of sight into the personas of your major donors and prospects, as well as a clear picture of how your campaigns are performing in relation to your goals. Measuring your results is as valuable as the initial goal setting, and often overlooked in the flurry of looking ahead to the future. By consistently measuring factors like your retention rate, segmented giving, and average gift amount, not only will your organization stay informed of your fundraising status, but you can more effectively communicate your impact. As major donors seek partners to make their own change in world, measuring your impact and telling your story are critical tools for establishing trust and long-lasting relationships.