My wife and I just bought our garden plants. The nursery was packed. The dreams of a bountiful harvest of flowers and vegetables were palpable. Each plant variety gave an estimated “harvest date” – when the plant would yield mature produce. 

Wouldn’t that be helpful with donor cultivation? Imagine a tag that indicated when the major gift would come in and how much cultivation would be necessary. I haven’t seen such a tag in my 25 years of ministry development. 

Here are four essential characteristics that increase the yield of major and mega gifts.

1. Donor cultivation takes TIME and RELATIONSHIP.

Since we know this, using an intentional approach to both can yield major gifts on a more predictable timetable.  The best professionals have a framework that helps them know how and when to be intentional – not haphazard – in their donor engagement efforts.   How about this for starters: Just one meaningful touch each month for top prospects on your file. 

2. Vision is King!

Giving is in the hands of the donor.  And a compelling vision is the most important motivator to large gifts. Too often, we rush in, blindly thinking that our need justifies the donor’s gift. 

In the words of noted author Jim Lord (The Raising of Money), “Organizations have no needs, Only People have needs.” As we passionately share how lives will be changed or saved through our organization, donors who are sensitive to that cause WILL respond accordingly. 

Donors require clarity.  What Good?  For Whom?  At What Cost?  Is your vision expressed this simply?  If not, try to eliminate the fluff and get clear – really clear on your messaging. 

3. Earning the right to ask.

We were working with a Christian university president whose $100 million campaign was his last before retiring from the school he had served for 30 years.  I’ll always remember what he said to me, “Tim, in 30 years of service, I’ve buried the students’ parents and married the students’ children.  I’ve earned the right to ask.”  The campaign successfully finished ahead of schedule.

The point is obvious.  He invested first in the lives of the donors – then yielded the fruit of that investment.   How are you earning the right to ask?  Write down 10 ways to invest in donors – then implement them on the calendar across your caseload. 

4. Finally, accountability is not optional.

I hear it all the time from donors, “But what did they do with the money?” In our excitement to receive a large gift, too often we forget “Thank You”, and “Here’s what your gift accomplished”

Some time ago we gave a gift to a local campus evangelism ministry.  Within a few days, we received a hand-written note indicating that “Steve” (a student in their ministry) was able to attend a mission trip because of our gift.  Wow!  What a blessing that was for Steve and for us.  Well done in thanking the donor and reporting back.   Is your gratefulness and reporting plan as robust as your solicitation plan? 


Blessings on your work, now “Let’s go change the world.”