Top 10 Major Donor Fundraising Trends for 2014-15

Fundraising is changing!  Everything is shifting these days.

Major donors are still not quite sure they trust you.

Donors are changing too. Post-recession donors really are different!

Are you changing your own fundraising strategies to keep up with donors’ newest attitudes and preferences?

Fundraising is recovering nicely now that the recession is over.

And since 87% of all gifts come from individuals –either thru bequests, family foundations or outright gifts, let’s track the wants and needs of these donors today.

Charitable gifts were up 3% last year, and wealthy individuals led most of that increase. 

Here are my Top 10 Major Donor Trends for 2014-15. See if you can ride these fundraising trends to major fundraising success in the coming year or two!

#1. Donors are Starting to Trust Again

We saw donors’ trust plummet in the recession.  People lost trust in all larger institutions: government, the financial industry, Wall Street, and also nonprofits.

We saw this in donors’ questions to us: “How will you use my money? Where will my money go?” Will my money be wasted?


  • Foster personal relationships with your donors.


    Major donors are looking at their gifts as investments for the social good.

  • Be transparent. Be specific.

#2. Major Donors See Their Gifts as Investments to Achieve Good

We’ve all heard the drill: Donors want information on the specific results you are creating.

They want to know that you are both efficient and effective.


  • Go out of your way to demonstrate to your donors that their gifts actually create “good” in the world.
  • Sharpen up your donor communications and be sure you are talking the language they want to hear.
  • It’s easy to pay lip service to this goal. It’s much harder to get it right!

#3. Donors Want to See Your Financials Tied Directly to Your Impact

Here’s your chance to build more trust:  Show your donors the right financials.

You can assure them, calm them down and quiet their doubts – IF you communicate correctly.

You’ve got to tie their money DIRECTLY back to the impact they are creating.


Talk to them in terms of the MPI formula:

  • Money – How much money you raised (or they gave)
  • Purpose/Project – What projects you spent the money on
  • Impact – What impact did you accomplish with the project?

When you LINK the money directly to the Project and the Impact, you quell your donors doubts about you.

And when you build up their trust, they will invest more in your nonprofit.

#4.  Rise of the Boomers as Donors

The Boomers are the major donors of today. They are 34% of all the donors, but they are giving 43% of all the money.

Remember the older generation of donors? They would give out of a sense of duty.

To Boomers, giving is a form of self expression.

Boomers, on the other hand, see giving as a means of self-expression.


  • Let Boomers’ personal interests and passions guide their individual cultivation plans.
  • Help them connect to what is most meaningful to them.

#5. Women are the #1 Donor Demographic

OK, get ready. I’m gonna surprise you with some new data:

64% of all charitable gifts are made by women. (Huffington Post, last week)

Boomer and older women are more likely to GIVE and also GIVE MORE than their male counterparts.  (Indiana University)

52% of women came into their marriages with assets equal to or larger than their partners.  (US Trust)


  • Review your prospect lists.
  • Reevaluate the capacity of the ladies.
  • Get to work and go see them!


    Women make most of the charitable gifts and they are more generous than men.

#6. The MEGA Donor

MEGA gifts are back!

Our most generous donors are finally letting go.

All that recession-based caution is loosening up and we are seeing multi-million dollar gifts all over the place.

10 largest new charitable gifts from individuals announced in 2013 came to a combined $3.45 billion. (Forbes and Chronicle of Philanthropy)


  • The Chronicle of Philanthropy says that most Mega-Gifts happen close to home.
  • So keep your eyes open locally! You may have more ways to access your friendly local billionaire (or multimillionaire) than you think.
  • Be opportunistic and never stop trying to get the door open!

#7. Major donors who volunteer give much much more

How about this: 89% of high net worth individuals volunteer with nonprofits.

I’ll never forget about the time a mega-wealthy donor said to me, “We give our money where we give our time.”

I never, ever forgot that!

Clearly the wealthy only make big gifts to the causes that are near and dear to their hearts.


  • What are you going to do to get your mega donors more involved? How about a committee, or your board? How about a focus group?
  • It’s one thing to take them on site in the middle of your action. (that’s terrific and a must-do!)
  • It’s a next step to get them involved in decision-making, or policy roles. That’s when the bigger money may start to flow in.

#8. The Role of Financial Advisors

Holy komoly! Donor-advised funds grew from $38 billion in 2011 to $45 billion in 2012.

Financial advisors are more important than ever.

That is a pile of money. And much of it is under the management of financial wealth advisors, isn’t it?


  • Do what you can to befriend the financial planners, estate attorneys, CPA’s and wealth advisors in your community.
  • Why not put a financial advisor on your board, or on a special fundraising committee.

#9. Big Data

I am barely beginning to understand what big data can do for fundraisers. For example:

Big data can watch thousands of donors, and based on their activities, create customized experiences for them.

And you can use “predictive modeling” to ID “sleeper” major gift prospects.

This statistical technique compares your major donors to all other donors. It develops a “distinguishing formula” to describe your major donors.

Then it scores all other donors in your file by how much they look like their major donors.

Pretty mind-blowing!


  • Clean up your data base as much as possible!
  • Add as much data as you can about people’s interests and their activities – in addition to tracking their gifts.
  • And start exploring what Big Data can do for you.

Trend #10: Donors Want a Big Idea!

Remember last year when Stanford University announced that it had raised one billion in one year?

Well, I was pretty impressed!

How did Stanford raise all this? Well they had:

“Very big ideas, and they’re good at capturing people’s imagination, thinking about what they can do and what they could be.”


  • Pull out your very best Big Ideas
  • Use them to capture people’s imagination
  • Talk about what you can do and what you can be to the community and the world

And you just might raise the mega gifts too!