Guest Post: Three Major Major Gift Metrics That Nonprofits Need to Track

By December 2, 2015 March 11th, 2019 Donor-centric Giving, Return on Investment, Uncategorized

Major giving is critical. That’s a given.

If you’ve had a major giving program for any period of time, your organization has probably developed a system and some best practices, even if your team hasn’t explicitly sat down and written out the process step-by-step.

Part of that process needs to be tracking major giving metrics (if it isn’t already). As long as you carefully track the data from your various major gift donors, you’ll be able to use that information to evaluate your performance and adjust accordingly.

Maybe your cultivation is stalling? Maybe you’re under-asking for gifts? Maybe enough major donors aren’t sticking around?

All of these challenges can be overcome. You can’t, however, overcome them if you are not even aware of their existence.

These three metrics will help you optimize your major gift efforts for a better fundraising future.

For further information on these metrics and over ten more, check out this list.


1. Average Giving Capacity

Giving capacity is a big deal in the world of major gifts, especially considering that mega-gifts are on the up and up.

If you’re going to traverse through the lengthy process of cultivating a major gift donor, you don’t want to misstep when it comes to the solicitation. Ask for an amount that is too high, and you risk isolating yourself from the donor. Ask for a gift that is too low, and you’ve left money on the table.

You can eliminate that risk by putting systems in place to assess your prospect’s giving capacities. Then, through tracking your average giving capacity, you’ll be able to evaluate how successful your nonprofit has been at toeing that line between asking for too little and too much.

Compare the average giving capacity of your top donors to your average major gift size. If you’re asking in line with the ideal giving amounts for the donors in question, those averages should line up nicely.

2. Asks Made

You can’t secure a gift that wasn’t asked for. If your team is making a serious go of major gifts, they have to be willing to make frequent asks.

This does not mean:

  • Asking too early.
  • Rushing into a solicitation without a plan.
  • Guessing, rather estimating, the gift amount.

Rather, your nonprofit should be gradually increasing the amount of prospects at varying stages in the major donor pipeline. That way, you’ll have a high enough quantity of donors to keep the cultivation customized to their ideal pace and provide the quality that they deserve.

To help with increasing the number of qualified prospects you have in your database, perform a prospect screening, investigating various significant giving details.

3. Frequency of Contact with Donors

This final metric speaks to your cultivation and stewardship methods. Track records of all interactions with your major donors in your database and determine the frequency with which you are contacting them.

Next, step back from the data and take a look at the trends. Look at your various contact methods, their frequencies, and their conversion rates. If you’re spending a large chunk of time on your direct mail, for instance, and it’s accomplishing very little, you’ll want to scale back.

Conversely, if you’re spending a moderate amount of time on direct mail and you’re seeing huge returns, delve further into that contact method.

With major giving, it’s likely that you’ll want to place a larger emphasis on in-person meetings than you would for other gift types. In the end though, figure out what works well with your specific prospect and donor pool and do more of that!

Find out more about what major giving policies work well with other nonprofits by traveling to a nonprofit conference in the coming year.


Tracking these various metrics is all about improving on your current performances and making necessary adjustments for the future. The future of the fundraising world might be impossible to wholly predict, but you can strategically steer your organization’s course. Lead the way with a standout major gifts program!

-Bill Tedesco, DonorSearch

Bill Tedesco is a well-known entrepreneur in the field of philanthropy with over 15 years of experience leading companies serving the fundraising profession.

Bill has personally conducted original research to identify markers of philanthropy and has developed modeling and analytical products that use those markers to accurately predict future giving.

Since 2007, Bill has been the founder, CEO and Managing Partner of DonorSearch.

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