At its core, the difference between annual giving and major giving is the size of the potential donor pool. While all constituents are invited to make annual or sustaining gifts, we only engage with a smaller subset of donors who have the prosperity, propensity, passion to make major gifts.
This one difference drives all other decisions: how we involve donors, how we invite gifts, how we thank donors and steward gifts, how we communicate with donors, how we use or restrict gifts, etc.
But how small, really, is this smaller subset of major giving donors at your institution? And, by comparison, how many major gift donors and prospects are assigned to gift officers?
Here’s the point: Most institutions have hundreds of major gift donors and prospects assigned to gift officers. Meanwhile, by any thoughtful measure, those same institutions might have 15-20 actual major gift donors during a given year or a given campaign.
When we allow annual giving thinking (i.e., “all are invited”) to extend into our major giving program, we end up with swollen, unproductive major gift donor portfolios and discouraged, overwhelmed gift officers.
The purpose of annual giving is to go wide – to invite as many prospective donors as possible to give some amount. The purpose of major giving, on the other hand, is to go deep – to identify a much smaller group of donors and personalize their engagement so fully that your institution’s mission and success becomes a higher priority in their lives.
Far too many institutions are trying to engage too many prospects in their major giving program.
It’s almost impossible to go deep with a wide set of prospects.