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Three Steps to Mastering a Major Gift Mindset

As a philanthropy officer, do you have years of experience but feel like you are missing out on the “big gifts?” As a volunteer, does the thought of asking for dollars make you nervous and bring trepidation to your role? As an executive, do you wish donors would just trust your plan and give to your top priority?

These are all real concerns shared by countless talented gift officers, volunteers and leaders. Often, the challenge in addressing these concerns is not learning a new skill but changing an existing mindset. Do you have the major gift mindset that will allow you to secure the big gifts, keep your donors happy and support your organization’s top philanthropic priorities?

The major gift mindset is a strategic approach and mentality that philanthropy officers adopt when seeking major donations for charitable causes. It involves three essential steps: Understanding donor motivations, cultivating strong donor relationships and employing effective strategies to secure significant contributions. Following these steps will help align philanthropic goals with donor interests and values, foster trust and transparency and maximize the impact of major gifts to create lasting social change.

  1. Understand Donor Motivations – We recognize every donor has a unique philanthropic true north, a guiding force that directs their giving. To foster meaningful connections with donors, it is crucial to gain insight into their motivations, interests and top philanthropic priorities. By understanding what drives them to contribute, we can tailor our approach and communication to effectively engage and inspire potential major donors, as well as create compelling cases for support that resonate with current donors’ values and aspirations.

  2. Cultivate Strong Donor Relationships – Taking the time to cultivate strong donor relationships seems obvious, but it is not always easy or prioritized. Building strong relationships is key to successfully securing major gifts. Donors are more likely to contribute significantly when they have established trust, credibility and a sense of mutual understanding with the organizations they support. Therefore, it is important to practice effective relationship-building techniques, such as active listening, personalized communication and regular stewardship. Taking the time to craft meaningful connections with donors, nurture relationships and foster long-term partnerships that extend beyond a single major gift ensures the donor trusts the organization, gives with joy and eagerly awaits the next partnership opportunity.

  3. Employ Effective Strategies – The major gift mindset is both a science and an art. It uses proven strategies and best practices to secure significant contributions. Are you employing the necessary strategies, including prospect research, donor cultivation plans, solicitation techniques, recognition and stewardship programs? Understanding these strategies and implementing them strategically will help secure major gifts and maximize the impact of philanthropic investments.

The major gift mindset provides philanthropy officers, volunteers and executives a roadmap to understanding donor motivations, building strong relationships and utilizing proven fund development techniques. Ultimately, taking the time to learn and master the major gift mindset, as well as understand its importance in philanthropy, will not only result in successfully securing transformative gifts but also create lasting social change.

Accordant Perspectives_Mastering a Major Gift Mindset
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About the Author: Heather Wiley Starankovic, CFRE, CAP, is a Principal Consultant with Accordant, with a dedication to supporting staff members and creating programs that keep talented and dedicated servant leaders within the field. She can be reached at or through LinkedIn.


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The Accordant Team has published a number of books to advance the efforts of health care philanthropy and help development leaders everywhere. 

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Accordant is honored to collaborate with American Hospital Association Trustee Services to provide issue papers, templates and webinars to support the involvement of healthcare trustees and foundation board members in advancing philanthropy. These resources can also be found on the AHA Trustee website.

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