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Prospecting Millionaire Donors for Major Gifts

One of the more notable giving trends of 2016 shows that 1/3 of total charitable donations came from the uber-wealthy. There is a shift from smaller annual gifts to major and mega-gifts from the top 1% of the population.

Let’s take a moment to focus on what advancement teams – especially major gift officers – can be doing to prospect and engage these big donors.

Use Various Strategies to Find a Wealthy Donor Pool

Traditional wealth screenings give tangible evidence of a person’s wealth, but they aren’t comprehensive. They miss key details like an individual’s philanthropic nature and likelihood to donate. In other words – why waste your time with a super wealthy individual who has no charitable intentions?

Instead, mix in some other methods as well – analyze your prospective donors and develop a more predictive model. This technique will enrich your donor pool and may help you uncover the millionaire next door.

Relationship Mapping for Major Gift Donors

The Philanthropy Workshop (TPW) recently did a study on high net worth individuals and revealed that these donors often use their personal relationships to find charitable opportunities.

Now, if you haven’t seen our previous blog on relationship mapping here’s a quick review – relationship mapping is a way to use your web of contacts to connect you with individuals you’d like to know. Start out by looking at your previous major gift donors and affluent contacts to see if you can use them as leverage for potential new leads. Who knows, maybe Bill Gates or Elon Musk are just a few connections away from being your next major gift donor!

Donor Intent is Key!

Armando Zumaya, a long time Chief Development Officer, notes that donor intent is key and isn’t always as transparent as it seems. During a meeting with a business school graduate who worked at a top investment bank, he made a valuable discovery. After years of donations, other officers had failed to notice that this graduate’s office was covered in valuable art. His true passion was contemporary art and not his successful career in finance. This revelation changed his $40,000 donation to the business school into a $500,000 donation and a valuable set of prints to the university’s art museum.

Don’t assume the obvious – do your best to be perceptive with your donors and find out what moves them.

Form Relationships with Affluent Donors

A U.S. Trust survey shows that 54% of wealthy donors give when they believe in an organization’s mission. It is essential to forge a relationship with these individuals not only so you can get to know your potential donor, but so they can get to know you and your institution as well.

Share with them what past gifts have accomplished, what your goals are, and – once you’ve discovered donor intent – make sure to give them a detailed plan for their potential donation.

Higher education saw a whopping 11% increase in $10 million+ donations in 2016. It goes without saying that major gifts and prospecting high net worth individuals are hot topics right now. Keep in mind that predictions point to an upward trend in major gift giving for 2018. Review your major gifts strategies with your team to ensure you make the best of this upcoming year.


Sources & Additional Reading

[1] Inside the Minds of Wealthy Donors,

[4] “Going Beyond Giving“, TPW Study 11.7.2017


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