Part 2: Getting Started with your Major Gifts Programme – What to include in a new Programme budget

In addition to the Major Gifts Executive and Administrator salaries, you will need to allow for:

Travel. This is a big one and if your Major Gifts Executive is doing a lot of prospecting i.e. looking for the right Major Donors from the database to qualify on to the programme then a hefty travel budget is required. You need an MGE to do this as the Senior Leadership Team won’t have the time or inclination to do prospect visits initially (except for the very high level ones). Often they come in second tier. If the MGE is busy and effective you need to allow a minimum of £500+ each month for travel.

Equipment. Your MGE will need a phone and laptop and/or tablet.

Research budget. Employed Prospect Researchers are wonderful if you have lots of wealthy individuals on your database but you can use external companies for some of this initially. If you don’t have big names on your database already then you won’t need a researcher straight away.  However you definitely need a first trawl of your database ie a wealth overlay to suss out the names contracted to an external company. Then buy the details of the biggest names. This is a variable amount depending on the size of your database and how many wealthy have been found. Perhaps allow £5k – £10k for this work. It is vital to your programme!

Events. Very small lunches/after work drinks can work well to introduce your CEO/SLT to a few potential donors at a time although the very high level individuals need one to one’s and you will have to go to them. This can be done fairly inexpensively and without a lot of MGE organisational time. Perhaps allow £5k – £10K for the year depending on your plan. Big events are time consuming so wouldn’t go that route especially initially.

Training and membership. Yes your MGE will need to keep up to date and be challenged, so allow £500 – £1,000 per annum. Membership to the Institute of Fundraising is key to being able to network and be kept informed.

Mentoring. This is essential as your MGE will have to weave their way through setting up this programme and it is full of mine fields, usually issues of organisational readiness, the case for support not being available, staff not trained, processes not in place to support the programme, long term strategy not available and so on. Allow £6k – £10k depending on who you work with.

Stationery and printing. This is a minimal cost initially. Glossy brochures are not required to start a programme but small amounts are needed for stamps, quality stationery and simple invitations for small events.

This comes to a total of between £24,000 – £42,000 for the first year in addition to the two basic salaries for your Major Gifts Executive and the Administrator.

Your initial investment is therefore approximately £100,000 for the first year.

But it is all worth it and the ROI is considerable once the programme is rolling!

If you have the presence of major donors on your database – even if they haven’t given much – your MGE will have people to work with. It is hard work in the first three years cultivating Major Donors who are lukewarm or indifferent to your cause but it will be worthwhile.

If you have many high level individuals on your database then employing two MGE’s is a great way to go. They can train together, support each other and give the programme momentum.

It is almost impossible to say how much income will be generated as there are so many variables but the rewards are huge. Some of the variables are:

  • Internal readiness
  • The Chief Executive’s and leadership’s willingness to be part of the programme
  • Finding potential philanthropists when ‘mining’ your database
  • Having programmes that can be costed and offered to potential Major Donors to get behind and fund
  • Finding a capable Major Gifts Executive…………
  • Employing an administrator at the outset of the Programme

However, for a £100,000 investment, you might expect to break even (at best) in the first year, raise £250,000 in the second year and £400K – £500k in the third year*. The ROI will continue to increase if the processes of the programme are set up correctly. The programme needs to be a long term commitment!

*Yes these are guesses and they are dependent on the variables mentioned above, but have been achieved by clients setting up their programmes for the first time.

– 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