How trustees can help to raise more major gifts

I received a call from a friend whom has always wanted to give back to his local community by trying to make a difference – he has been volunteering for a few charities in various capacities and has recently been elected as a trustee for one.

This is what he said: “As you are aware I have joined a local charity that I praise and hold high regards for as they carry out great work in my local community. We don’t have major giving programme, do you think we should have one and secondly I don’t have an experience in fundraising specially asking people for money, how should I get involved with fundraising?” So I responded:

A. “Don’t miss out on major giving.”

If you are local charity and don’t have a major giving programme, assuming that wealthy people won’t donate to your charity, then you are missing out on a big opportunity here. Because there is strong evidence available which suggests that wealthy people love to support local causes. For many philanthropists, supporting the communities in which they reside, work, or the communities from which they originate, forms the beginning of their philanthropic journey.

In 2011, New Philanthropy Capital and Coutts published the report ‘Inspiring local philanthropy’ specifically on the subject of supporting local charities. Here is what one of the philanthropist said in the report:

”Local giving is important because you can focus funds to have the greatest effect. Rather than being sector specific, we are able to focus on a geographic area, supporting a wide range of projects. If you compare giving locally with nationally or internationally there is a completely different level of reward. I enjoy giving to a local charity. You feel much closer to it, and you’re more likely to see the result of a gift or indeed a gift in kind.”

 B. Find other ways to support your major gifts:

Everyone understands that trustees are volunteers, so no one should expect them to be professional fundraisers. Major gifts fundraising is not only about asking for money, it’s about building relationships or facilitating those relationships to happen and building awareness for your cause. Until you feel comfortable asking for money, you can find other ways to support your major gifts fundraising:

  1. Make fundraising on top of your board’s agenda

Ask yourself this: if a charity doesn’t raise money, will it still be able to do the great work that it does? I’m afraid not.

So be clear from the outset that every trustee must understand and realise that fundraising is a job which needs to be done and it’s the lifeline of your organisation. If you don’t support fundraising in whatever capacity (time, money, skills, making a noise, networking, thanking donors etc.) as a trustee, then why do you think that anyone else should be supporting your organisation? I believe that the board should ensure fundraising is recognised as a priority and well understood across the organisation, thus keeping the fundraising agenda on top of your board meetings on a regular basis, not only when your organisation needs money desperately, but as a matter of regular practice.

2. Inspire your fundraisers

Fundraisers always need inspiration, so keep them inspired by telling your personal story of why you do what you do, or by reminding regularly why your organisation exists in first place.

3. Help to identify and cultivate donors

Try to connect your major gift fundraisers to people you know who can be beneficial for your organisation. You can also help your major gifts team to setup small non-asking cultivation events for your donors and prospects.

4. Major Donor love to be thanked by trustees

I can tell you from my personal experience, that we have transformed results at Orphans in Need, because our trustees have been forthcoming in helping us to thank our donors. Work closely with your major gifts team to thank your donors via emails, phone calls and writing personal notes or whichever preferred way your donor has chosen to communicant with them.

5. Make good use of your personal social media

Raising awareness of your cause is an important part of your fundraising. Start with listing the organisation in your social media profiles. Making a noise online and share the successful stories of your organisation’s projects – it’s a great way of keeping your charity in the mind of your prospective donors.

This will help you to generate a lot of interest within your network and beyond. When people take an interest in your posts, it will help you to learn about your network and how engaged they are in your cause. The more you know about an individual, the better able you’ll be to engage them. You don’t know ‘who knows who’ and when someone might decide to giving you a big gift.

6. Think of what else you can do

I remember on one occasion, I requested one of our trustees to negotiate a venue price for one of our major donor events. Utilising his business skills, he was able to get a 30% discount on what we were quoted initially. So find out what you are good at and how you can raise or save more money for your charity.

This article was initially published by Institute of Fundraising.

Book Your Free Call Now:

If you are a trustee and would like to learn more about how you can get involved with fundraising or how you can set up your major giving programme from scratch or if you are a fundraiser and would like to learn more about getting your trustees involved with fundraising, please feel free to book your free ten minutes call and we can chat more about it.


Ikhlaq Hussain is a major giving specialist, currently head of major gifts at Orphans In Need, trustee at Mind in Harrow, Board member and Fundraising Mentor at IOF (South East & London), and regular blogger on the topic of fundraising.


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