How Do You Define “Major Donor” at Your Nonprofit?

How Do You Define “Major Donor” at Your Nonprofit?

It’s time to address one of the most common questions that I receive: “What is a major donor?” or “What level is a major donor?” You all want a number. You want me to say it’s $5,000 or it’s $10,000. I can’t do that because it’s arbitrary. In some organizations it’s $500 and I’ve seen it as $50,000 in some organizations.

But really it doesn’t matter because the next question is, “What are you going to do about it?” What are you going to do with that group of donors that is your major donors? What are you going to do that’s different, that’s special, that makes them feel like this is a personal relationship they have with your organization? Do you know what you’re going to do or you have some ideas? Now the question is, how many donors can you do that for?

For super small one person it might just be 10 or 25. For bigger shops, with a dedicated development director, maybe 50 or 100. Once you know the group that you can support at that level, then you’re ready to define what a major donor is for your organization. So print out the list of all past donors, sort it by the size of last gift and look for the break point.

Wherever that falls, that’s a major donor for you. It can change over time but that’s the level of major donor that you’re capable of supporting at this point in time. That’s what matters. The dollar amount doesn’t matter. It’s all about where you can provide the personal experience that’s going to grow their relationship and their support of the organization.