Part 1: Getting Started with your Major Gifts Programme – When do you employ a Major Gifts Executive for a new major gifts programme?

It is advisable to have a wealth overlay undertaken to see how many millionaires are on your database before seeking to recruit a Major Gifts Executive.   (In passing this is an ‘internal’ title and not suitable for external use)  Depending on how many there are, will give justification for launching a Major Gifts Programme and investing in staff.

You will need a Major Gifts Executive to kick start your programme.  Some suggest it is possible to do it without because the cultivation and asks will be done by senior staff.  However you really need someone to have the responsibility for coordinating all the major gifts work.

If your Senior Leadership Team are not used to major donor work they need support and a fair amount of briefing. I would also advise you to have admin support at the very beginning of the programme.  Even a part-time administrator is better than none to assist in all the administrative tasks related to:

  • List formation
  • Research of individuals
  • Planning
  • Spreadsheets for donor plans
  • Process sorting internally
  • Database preparation
  • Programme interface to make sure there is a healthy flow of information to pass to donors as touch points
  • Preparation to make a good case for support
  • Costing of programmes for asks
  • Reports and stories to give major donors
  • Preparation of proposals for asks
  • Monthly reports for management

It is not good stewardship to pay top salary i.e for your Major Gifts Executive to do all the administration so it is advisable to go for admin support at the very start.  Then the MGE can focus on relationship building externally as well as overseeing the establishment of the programme.

It takes quite some time to set all the processes in place to make a “Major Gifts Programme” with longevity rather than an MGE making random approaches. Otherwise things collapse early on and you definitely won’t want that.

– Do make comments on your experiences or ask a question using the form on the Contact page here .

Ruth is the principal and founder of Ascent Philanthropy, author of two books and passionate about helping non-profits with their major gift programmes by offering advice for introducing a new major gift programme or enhancing the productivity of the philanthropy team