Are you major donor ready?

Major donor fundraising isn't rocket science, says Paul Marvell, director of professional development and membership at the IoF

Paul Marvell asks if the sector is major donor ready
Paul Marvell asks if the sector is major donor ready
Ask a typical fundraising director what keeps them awake at night, and they are likely to say they are struggling to recruit a major donor manager or head or appeal director. Ask any recruitment agency about the posts that are most difficult to fill and they are likely to say major donor fundraisers.

Most not-for-profits have known about the importance of fundraising from high net worth individuals for a long time. The picture is confused by the variety of job titles – arts and education prefer ‘development’, the charity sector prefers ‘major donor’ or ‘major gift’ fundraising. The government further confuses the
picture by referring to it is as ‘philanthropy’.

I believe that major donor fundraising isn’t rocket science. You identify potential donors, preferably in your own organisation’s network, and you inspire, engage and involve them through a case for support. This means the right person asks the donor for the right amount of money, at the right time, in the right place and in the right way.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a shortage of people who are able to make this process work. I think many charities make incorrect assumptions about major donor fundraising and think that simply recruiting the right person or team is sufficient. But they need to make their organisation ‘major donor ready’. Are they prepared to invest more in research and donor segmentation? Is the chief executive on board and do they know how much time they need to invest in making this work? Is there a clear and inspiring case for support? Are the right trustees engaged? Are they prepared sign off investment into what can be a long-term process? If these questions are answered, then you can begin a major donor programme with some confidence.

The good news is that major donor skills can be learned, and that is why the Institute of Fundraising has been developing a programme that will help charities make the step change they need to start major donor fundraising in a really effective way.

Paul Marvell, director of professional development and membership, IoF

This article appears on a page edited by the Institute of Fundraising and hosted by

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