Major Donors: Your Secret to a Successful Year-End in 2020

Concerned about year-end fundraising? David Miller, Senior Vice President, RKD Group, busts some myths and shares tips that can set you up for success.


We have one final hurdle before the whirlwind of 2020 dies down (knock on wood): Year-end fundraising.

In what has been nothing short of an unpredictable year, animal welfare organizations across the nation have faced the loss of volunteer support, event cancellations, and even temporary closures due to shelter-in-place orders.

While we’ve seen amazing support throughout this, some organizations may still be facing financial hardship as donors turn their focus to other causes that are closer to the virus. 

But this isn’t all doom and gloom. There’s a shining light that can carry us through revenue losses, gaps in fundraising, or declining event revenue:

Major donors.

Looking at the numbers

You may be worried that major donors are all tapped out. They may have already made generous gifts to help you through these challenging times. 

First, let me assure you that other organizations have the same feelings. 

To help ease your minds, RKD Group and The Nonprofit Alliance joined forces to commission a study that investigated donor sentiment toward year-end giving this season. 

The findings were incredibly encouraging. You can read the full study here.

However, there are a few points that stand out when thinking about major giving.

Donors have more to give: 80% of donors say they plan to give the same as or more than last December. 60% of donors who plan to give more in December have already given more in 2020.

The larger the donation, the more likely the donor will give more: 
Of donors who gave $1,200 or more in 2019, 42% say they intend to give more at year-end.

The higher the income, the more they’ll give: 65% of the donors who say they plan to give more in December are those with household incomes over $100,000.  

As you can see from the numbers above, all signs point to large donors continuing to keep up their support as December approaches. 

Here are a few tips for connecting with major donors and finishing the year on a strong note:

Wellness calls

The holidays can be a lonely time for donors. Given the added stress of a pandemic, wellness calls to check in with your major donors are a great way to continue building your relationship.

The intention should be more about the personal impact you can make – not about the ask. See how your major donors are doing and spread some holiday cheer. You never know where a simple phone call could lead. 

Virtual events

The animal welfare sector has suffered a hard hit from the loss of in-person events. Given that event revenue usually makes up a large percentage of fundraising for most organizations, as well as provides valuable facetime with larger donors, this can be hard to recover from.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t still have events and connect with major donors. It just looks a little bit different these days.

Virtual and hybrid events are rising in popularity, and it has been incredible to see nonprofits pivot to adjust their plans. Just remember, it’s about more than putting on an engaging show. Virtual events still require volunteer activation, major donor cultivation, and a strong fundraising strategy for success. 

Donor-advised funds

Donor-advised funds have been rising in popularity over the past few years, and giving from DAFs has surged since the pandemic hit. In fact, many institutions, like Fidelity Charitable, are encouraging their clients to make distributions – this doesn’t happen often.

If you haven’t already, identify every DAF donor on your file and reach out to them. Include an option to make a distribution in all of your communications and give them special recognition once they do.

Lean into other channels

If you can’t meet with major donors in person or through events, lean into other channels to connect with them. Personalized video updates and handwritten notes are all still viable options for stewardship during a pandemic.

Use these channels to be honest. Major donors support you for a reason, and they have some of the deepest ties to your mission. If you’re experiencing an elevated need for donations this year-end, let them know. 

It’s been a challenging year, but don’t write off major donors as a way to carry you through the next few months. 

Organizations who focus on stewardship and building deep relationships with the donors who support them will see success and growth for years down the road.  

Learn More

Virtual events: What nonprofits need to know to get started
Study: Donor Sentiment Toward 2020 Year-End Fundraising


David Miller

David Miller is Senior Vice President at RKD Group, a leading fundraising and marketing services provider to hundreds of nonprofit organizations. He brings more than two decades of animal welfare experience to help organizations craft their fundraising strategies for success. Prior to joining RKD in 2011, David spent 14 years working at animal welfare organizations, including a stint as CEO at Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League.


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