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Identification of Major Donor Candidates — Fish Where the Fish Are

Non-Profit organizations that are serious about building a sustainable and robust advancement program need to design their operation to identify, engage, cultivate, and secure gifts from and steward affluent and high-net-worth individuals. This is because of the year-over-year decline in the donor universe and a 20-year low in the proportion of disposable income people are giving to nonprofits. This is also supported by a new poll of Americans found that nearly half of those who stopped giving to charity over the past five years said they did so because they thought wealthier people could afford to give more — and should.


There are roughly 22,000,000 millionaires in the U.S., one-third of whom are women-average age of 57. The industries that produce the most millionaires (and billionaires) in the U.S. are finance and investments, technology, manufacturing, fashion and retail, and healthcare. And nearly 80% of millionaires did not receive an inheritance or attended private schools. This is a way of saying the major donors you are seeking are people who worked hard and invested wisely to attain their wealth.

Annual Giving

Even billionaires and millionaires write $100 checks, so you must lean into your annual giving program. When people contribute to your annual appeals, they effectively raise their hands to say; I like your mission and how you manage your organization. You want to find the high-net-worth people from this haystack.


If you have a donor file of many hundreds or thousands, it will serve you well to have the file screened for philanthropic capacity by one of many services that do this. The capacity scores that will be assigned to each donor, along with “street research” and list screening with your board, staff, and volunteers, will help you identify where to focus your efforts.

However, there is still no tool or process to consistently and objectively arrive at an amount to ask for a major gift… or is there one?  Stay tuned.

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●     Donor “street” research is essential

●     Game-changer institutional self-esteem

●     Major Donor Pipeline Development

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