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Major donors can and should be the lifeblood of your nonprofit’s sustainability and growth

Major donors are not all created equal. To start, what qualifies as a major donation? What may be a major gift to a small nonprofit may be commonplace to a larger organization. One measurement of “major” is that the stand-alone amount provided by the giver makes a significant impact on successful mission fulfillment.

Major donors write a check, bequeath a legacy gift, transfer stock and property, or donate substantial amounts that require more than an automated thank you and the occasional request for more funds.

What are the costs to your charities that fail to retain major donors?

Recent research indicates that only 47 percent of first-time major donors are retained by a nonprofit or charity after one year, meaning that 53 percent are lost to your organization, year over year. This means that in five years, just 21 of the original 1,000 major donors will still be supporting your organization. And the cost of attracting first-time major donors is high: approximately $.25 for every major donor dollar.

When a major donor walks away from a nonprofit or charity, both the donation and the cost of recruiting that donor are lost, which is a price few nonprofits or charities can afford to pay.

Why do major donors walk away?

Meaningful and ongoing engagement with major donors is a vital component to a nonprofit’s financial sustainability. Major donors, board members and volunteers need to feel engaged with the nonprofit organizations that they are supporting or they lose interest.

Geneva Global, a philanthropic consulting company, says that assessing and providing the level of communication desired by major donors, and making that information easy to access is key to major
donor retention.

What does major donor engagement mean?

Nonprofits and charities are striving to enhance their major donors’ understanding and appreciation of their charity’s work and mission. A successful major donor engagement strategy is one that promotes an emotional connection AND an intellectual understanding, appealing to both “the heart and mind” of the major donor.


Trying — and failing — to engage hearts and minds of major donors

Many nonprofit organizations may strongly disagree that nonprofits aren’t doing enough for major donor engagement or may not understand the urgency of strengthening donor relationships. Nonprofit executive directors already work overtime to send hundreds of regularly scheduled emails, invitations, training packets, announcements, newsletters and impact reports, literally chasing all donors, wondering “What more can we do?”

The problem of increasing engagement all comes down to one word: chasing. That’s exactly what most nonprofits do, and it doesn’t work.

Consider these facts about nonprofit engagement efforts: Nonprofit-generated email to all constituents, including major donors, have average open rates of 34 percent, with click-through or attachment open rate at 4.99 percent. This means that only two out of one hundred recipients actually read your messaging, success stories, newsletters, minutes and other attachments.

And with new privacy measures recently put in place by major email providers, that open rate is predicted to continue to plummet. With the vast majority of intended contributors missing our emailed communications — all designed to increase engagement, is it a wonder that the retention rate of major donors is low?

What is the right way to attract and retaining major donors? Engagement Communities™

MissionBox-powered Engagement Communities™ provide one secure, branded online center for all of your major donors to access:

  • Information
  • Education
  • Annual Budgets
  • Reports
  • Inspirational Stories
  • Invites
  • Simple Surveys
  • Impact Reports
  • Shared Documents/Discussions
  • Internal News Feeds
  • Videos of Events
  • Trainings and more …

Plus, MissionBox Engagement Communities provide easy document archival and retrieval, along with project and collaboration organization tools that promote true engagement with your major donors.

Best of all, you provide your major donors with “need to know” and appealing information, all accessed via a unique username and password in a guaranteed private, managed environment, available through any device, both desktop and mobile.

With free user seats and cloud storage, you can invite a limitless number of donors to learn more, care more and give more to your charity.

MissionBox Engagement Communities. Your one-stop, secure, online center for all nonprofit constituent communications and collaboration. For a free demonstration, contact



MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.