Major Gift End of the Year To-Do List

Published by Karen Osborne on

Major gift end of the year to dos are not the same as your annual giving big push and wrap up.

For annual giving, your focus is on the final appeal for the year, working on getting the words just right and the letter out the door. You’ve reviewed all of your leadership donors ($1,000+) and have board members and volunteers calling as many as possible who’ve yet to commit. Your holiday cards are being hand written, addressed and stamped so you can drop them on December 1.

This is keeping you busy.

Major gift donors, however, also need special attention this time of year even if they are not planning to make a major gift over the next six weeks. Here are five major gift end of the year to dos to consider.

  1. When is the last time you made them say, “Wow?” Pull out your list of top donors and potential donors. When was their last “impact and outcome” report, communication or experience? What reaction did you receive? What could you do now that would make a specific donor feel valued?

For example, could your CEO call a few people a day, every day between now and December 29? “I just wanted to personally wish you all the best for the holidays (for the New Year) and thank you again for all you’ve contributed to our success. Our (the people, cause, animals you serve) could not have (impact) without you.”

Could the holiday card have a special handwritten message from a member of the program staff? Could a bouquet of flowers arrive with a special and personal message tied to the impact of his or her investment in your organization?

Name of DonorGifts of Money, Time, Talent, Wisdom, ConnectionsLast Impact Report, Communication, or ExperienceDate What Might You Do Now?


  1. Make their annual fund solicitation (or stewardship) strategic. If you’ve not yet solicited your major gift donor or prospective donor for a leadership annual gift of $1,000+, don’t include them in the general appeal or even the volunteer call list. What are you hoping for, working towards in terms of a major gift? Not the amount but the purpose, impact and outcome. Connect their annual gift to that purpose.

For example, if you believe the right gift might be the new $50,000 tolerance initiative (add zeros depending on your circumstances), then tie their annual gift to your everyday activities that help foster tolerance in the community.

If they’ve already made a leadership annual gift, when you are implementing step one above, tie the appreciation and impact message (stewardship) to tolerance work.

  1. Revamp your individual donor plans. I know you’re swamped with work and family obligations. But targeting three hours over the next few weeks to think about each of your major gift donors and prospective donors, reviewing your written donor engagement and solicitation strategy or plan, and updating it, will help you with steps one and two as well as hit the ground running in January.
  1. Take a moment to stop and assess the year. Celebrate all that you’ve accomplished. Measure your accomplishments. Set yourself up for major gift success in 2017. And don’t forget the non-metric factors. Following is an excellent article of those things that make us great that the number of visits, major gifts closed, and dollars in don’t necessarily measure.
  1. Finally, remember that your major gift to do list includes taking care of you. If you are stressed, over wrought, not having time for family and friends, failing to get that doctor’s appointment or get to the gym or read that book or SLEEP, then your major gift to do list is an item short. When you are in top condition, peak performance results. When you are exhausted, donor results suffer. Trust me on this.

Taking care of you is an essential item on your major gift end of the year to do list.

Karen Osborne

Internationally recognized as an expert consultant and excellent presenter, Karen receives invitations from all over the United States and the world to make presentations and consult with NGOs, universities, justice, social service, and health organizations. The Council for Support and Advancement of Education (CASE) awarded Karen the Crystal Apple for outstanding teaching and Ashmore Award for Outstanding Service to the Profession. Published and often quoted in industry books, newspapers and magazines, Karen serves on the board of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and teaches a graduate course on philanthropy for Johns Hopkins University.

1 Comment

Fundraising Friday | December 9, 2016 | Pamela Grow · December 9, 2016 at 13:36

[…] Karen Osborne writes: “Major gift end of the year to dos are not the same as your annual giving big push and wrap up” and shares a plethora of tips you can put into action NOW to WOW your organization’s major donors. Major Gift End of the Year To-Do List  […]

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