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A client of LDMI once told us that he was looking around the room during a Board meeting and an important realization suddenly struck him: This group of men and women — who have donated and helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for his mission — were all introduced to his nonprofit through direct mail.

Major donors are one of the pillars of any nonprofit organization’s financial framework. Very often, major donors become important members of your organizational family, offering advice, hands on support, and a web of important contacts.

But one of the most common questions nonprofits struggle with is, “How do we find more major donors?”

The answer? Direct mail.

The metrics for what constitutes a “major donor” varies across nonprofits, but a good place to start is with donors who have given a single $1,000 or more gift to your cause.

Blackbaud’s data and analytics division, Target Analytics, reviewed giving patterns for more than 5 million donors to around 100 different nonprofit organizations to identify the factors influencing their first $1,000 gift to a nonprofit.

According to their findings, “[H]ow donors made their first gift and the number of years they had been giving had a significant influence on when they made their first $1,000 donation.”

Looking at the origins of the first gifts of these future major donors, almost half, 48%, made their first gift through direct mail.

A case study of one nonprofit recently conducted by Analytical Ones found “55% of their $1,000+ donors” were acquired through their direct mail acquisition mailings. Going back a few years, the same group observed in a separate study that one-in-four first-time gifts from $1,000-$2,500 donors were through traditional direct mail acquisition, and one-in-six first-time gifts from $2,500+ donors.

Analytic Ones summed up their findings stating: “Think of it another way, take away direct mail acquisition and a significant chunk of your future large donors will also go away.”

These numbers shouldn’t be very surprising. Direct mail has been consistent in its ability to convince people to donate large sums of money to nonprofits for decades.

As LDMI President Mike Lawrence put it:

“One reason for this is that a well-crafted direct mail package is a communication that, in great detail, will give an interested recipient all the information they need about an appeal. It will tell them how the money will be used, it will allay their fears that maybe the money doesn’t really go to the intended cause, it will make it easy for them to become a contributor or to repeat as a contributor to this cause.

“The fact is, people like to get mail that they’re interested in. They like to read about subject matters that they’re interested in. An overwhelming number of non-profit contributors are above retirement age. And most retired people who are 65 or older like to get mail. And because they’ve done a good job of planning for their retirement, they have enough money to be able to send a non-profit $50 or $100.”

Or $1,000, $2,500, $5,000 or even more!

The above findings are backed up by LDMI’s 30 years of working in nonprofit fundraising. Major donors don’t just fall out of the sky. Most of them are sitting at home reading your direct mail — just waiting to be tapped for a big gift.

So if your nonprofit is looking for more major donors, here are a few key steps you can take to get started:

  • Create a robust and dynamic direct mail program. You can learn more about running a direct mail program by clicking here. [not sure what Sean was intending to link to here.]
  • Use direct mail as a prospecting tool. Aside from ensuring your organization’s growth and sustainability, it’s also extremely important in finding major donors.
  • And finally: Analyze your data and target donors for major gifts. The potential major donors in your database may be waiting for a major-giving direct mail solicitation, or even a phone call.

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