The 5 Fundamental Needs of Major Donors You Must Fulfill


Cultivating major gifts can be an intimidating prospect. But if you learn to fulfill these five fundamental needs of every major donor consistently, major gifts will not be a problem.When you look past their level of wealth, major donors have the same human needs you and I have. They want certainty, significance, connection, and a sense of their personal contribution to society.

These five fundamental human needs become part of the criteria donors use when looking for a charitable partner for their philanthropic goals.

After decades of working with donors from successful entrepreneurs to average middle-class Americans, I know these five fundamental needs are either attracting or repelling your potential donors.

Major Donor Need #1: Impact Alignment

The major donors (or prospective major donors) you interact with are expert businesspeople. Many have started their own business, become a vice president, or gained wealth through wise investments.

Donors are looking at your actions, comparing it to their vision, and looking for impact alignment. Share on X

Impact alignment happens when the results of your organization’s hard work lines up with the change — the impact — the donor wants to see in the world.
For example, that well-advertised fundraising event that you did last year…

  • What was the impact of those generous gifts?
  • How did you communicate that alignment and community impact to your donors, community, and social networks?
  • Learn to identify the change your events, programs, or initiatives create in the world and then communicate the stories of that change to potential donors to create impact alignment.

Major Donor Need #2: Applied Credibility

Every year, the news reports scandals of all sizes from inappropriate behavior, mishandled transactions, and miscommunications. But in reality, donors don’t normally sniff you out for these kinds of vices.

The typical vice of the average nonprofit is the lack of organizational integrity. They just don’t keep their promises.

What do average donors care about more than anything: That you keep your word. (TWEET THIS)

Donors expect you to refrain from corporate sins like embezzlement, private inurement, and unethical treatment of human beings. It’s taken for granted that you’ll be ethical and transparent.

But do you follow through on your promises? This is what will set you apart from other charities.

  • When you say you exist to dig wells, where are the stories to show your impact?
  • When you say your donor can create a legacy through their planned gift, what are the internal controls that protect their legacy?

As a prospective donor, I am looking at how you are protecting your credibility — because if I donate, it will become part of my own legacy.

Major Donor Need #3: A Game Plan for Impact

Your potential donors have spent decades building their own legacies. They planned for it, executed it, and are now reaping the benefits.

Today, their portion of the $49 trillion dollar distribution of wealth is looking for an organization that has a plan, has been making an impact, and has the ability to receive large gifts.

Major donors will not consider an organization without a plan or the ability to handle large gifts. Share on X

Having a plan for major gifts and the ability to receive them is another way of saying that you must have a big enough vision. If your vision is too small, you will attract small gifts.

  • What is your game plan for large (and small) donations?
  • Do you have the necessary internal controls already in place?
  • Do your marketing materials refer to these plans?

Expanding the scope of your vision, developing the plan, and crafting the language to communicate all of this to major prospective donors takes time. Examine your current plan to see if it’s really worth a major investment from a wealthy donor.

Major Donor Need #4: Connection

A common complaint I hear from major donors is that there is little to no connection between them and the organization they gave to.

This lack of connection has an easily fixed cause: very little donor development. Donors are not a means to an end — they’re like a classic car.

If tended to correctly, major donors will want to serve the organization’s needs.

  • When was the last time you made a connection with your donors for the sake of serving them?
  • Do they feel that you have their best interest at heart, even while serving your organization’s needs?
  • How much have you researched your donor to determine their philanthropic goals rather than identify their giving capacity?

Make a point to check in to share the stories with an impact or connect about how they can redistribute 401k taxes.

Major Donor Need #5: Gratitude

It always surprises me how few donors hear the words, “Thank you.” This really bothers me — and it should bother you.

Major gifts represent the time, values, and resources your donors have built up over a lifetime.

They are giving part of themselves to your nonprofit. Consider the significance of that legacy and heritage.

Too often, we ask donors to partner with us to accomplish our vision — but this is a poisonous perspective that will kill your major gift program.

Truth is, you’re partnering with them to accomplish their dream for the world.

Gratitude means we’re thankful for them allowing us to be a part of their legacy, their story, their impact on the world. And of course, it’s not enough to feel it — you have to communicate your gratitude to them.

How are you saying thank you and keeping them up to date?

Keeping individuals connected with consistent communications, impact stories, and finding ways to serve your donors’ needs are just a few ways to honor their legacies and values.

Donors are looking for consistency, connectivity, and communication. Share on X

If you are blessed to have donors who recognize that you are a viable, impactful force in your community, keep in touch and remind them of their legacy’s impact.

If you are struggling to cultivate major gifts, take a good look at your development priorities. A small investment into engaging donors consistently can revolutionize your nonprofit.

Tactics like consistent blogs, website updates, newsletters, or simply face-to-face conversations can all work to fulfill these five fundamental needs of every major donor.

And when you switch from asking for money to fulfilling their needs as a major donor, the gifts will take care of themselves.

If you need a trusted guide who knows the way to higher donor engagement, we’re here for you.

The Giving Crowd team has over 50 years of combined experience in major donor development and legacy giving. If you’d like to see how we can help you exceed your fundraising goals, let’s talk.

It’s a free call. No obligations. So get a hold of us today!