Planning Implementing your Major Gifts Campaign

Planning and Implementing Your Major Gifts Campaign

A Jossey-Bass workbook by Suzanne Irwin-Wells




Buy this Book


Philanthropy Consultant Review

Susan D. Smith

Executive Director, Utica (NY) Symphony Orchestra and Consultant in Philanthropy, Barneveld, NY from

We’ve all heard the stories or read them. Someone makes a once-in-a-lifetime, mega contribution to a major University or medical center. And, we’re left to wonder “How did that happen?” It’s rare that a gift of six, seven or more figures just waltzes in “over the transom” as any development director will tell you. Besides, how many nonprofit organizations these days are housed in buildings that even HAVE transoms. I bet most people have never even seen a transom, let alone seen anything come in over one . . . Before I enter full Roseann Roseannadanna mode, I will acknowledge that there are occasions when someone leaves a huge gift to a nonprofit. Those unusual instances typically find the Board president or nonprofit exec profoundly remarking, “We don’t know why she (though it is sometimes a ‘he’ doing the giving, it is more often a woman) made this donation, but we’re mighty glad that she did.”

The likelihood that your organization – or mine, for that matter – will be the beneficiary of unanticipated largesse grows smaller and smaller with each passing generation. The days of the switchboard operator who worked quietly at her trade for 40 years and retired with a nest egg the size of the national debt of Argentina and no heirs is coming to an end. In this day and age of electronic availability of personal data you don’t even want to think exists (especially if it’s data about YOU), the possibility of a major gift-giver being “out there” and unknown to your organization seems almost impossible. Plus, today’s philanthropists are not exactly shrinking violets. They want their good works and deeds to be known. And, they want a say in how their gifts will be used, perhaps even a say in how they are managed.

Planning and Implementing Your Major Gifts Campaign by Suzanne Irwin-Wells is a book that every development officer and Board member should read. It is a “by-the-book” kind of book. That is, it is a logical presentation of how to plan for the acquisition and solicitation of major gifts and how to make that plan happen successfully.

Nothing is left to chance in this workbook. Its 11 sections and sub-topics lay out exactly what any organization – its Board, staff professionals and volunteers – will need to know in order to create opportunities for major gifts and to successfully fulfill them.


  1. Understanding Major Gifts
  2. Preparing for Major Gifts
  3. Setting Goals
  4. Identifying, Quantifying and Rating Potential Donors
  5. Budgeting for Your Campaign
  6. Identifying, Recruiting and Training Volunteers
  7. Cultivating Relationships with Major Donors
  8. Soliciting Major Gifts Prospects
  9. Monitoring Your Campaign
  10. Staying on Track
  11. Providing Stewardship for Major Donors and Their Gifts

The workbook begins with every development professional’s greatest wish: a definitive list of characteristics that set major gifts apart from any other type of donation. The workbook goes on to suggest that major gifts don’t necessarily have to be targeted only to special opportunities. Major gifts may inform many aspects of a nonprofit’s fund raising – it’s ongoing operations, special programs or capital needs.

Each section of the workbook contains reproducible worksheets, figures and exhibits for every aspect of major gifts fund raising. Sure, there’s the ubiquitous Donor Pyramid. But, it’s also shown in three different configurations – the Pyramid we’ve all grown to know and “love”; the Pyramid with Prospects and (my favorite!) the Pyramid Showing.