Keys to Developing a High-Value Fundraising Programme: Insights for Global Organisations

Keys to Developing a High-Value Fundraising Programme: Insights for Global Organisations

The ability to attract major and principal gifts, such as those with five figures or more, can help transform a fundraising programme, maximising resources, efficiency and most importantly impact. 

It may seem that charitable organisations receiving gifts of this magnitude must simply have remarkable fundraising talent, extensive connections, or perhaps better luck than everyone else. In actuality, there are several keys to developing high-value fundraising programmes that help organisations draw significant levels of philanthropic support.  

As your organisation seeks to elevate its fundraising programme and secure increasingly larger gifts, here are three critical areas on which to focus.  

1. People 

An effective high-value fundraising programme begins with having the right people in place, at every level within the organisation. This includes strong, trusted institutional leadership, willing to commit time and energy to the fundraising process; talented individuals in supporting roles; and prospective donors who can help meet organisational ambitions. It also includes engaged volunteer leaders who will partner with the team to facilitate outreach, and whose personal philanthropic commitments are likely to motivate the gifts of others. Let’s look more closely at some of these roles: 

  • Executive Sponsorship A successful high-value fundraising programme must have strong internal sponsorship – it cannot be driven in isolation. Whilst you might be fortunate to recruit a skilled major gift fundraiser, if that fundraiser is not supported by leadership from the executive and non-executive level, their success will be severely inhibited. We are currently dealing with a very competitive recruitment market, and attracting those talented individuals who can move your programme forward is not easy. But strong internal advocacy can be a key differentiator of your programme. 
  • Major Gift Fundraisers Recruiting, retaining, and investing in major gift fundraisers is vital. These individuals should have technical and functional competencies (such as relational, time management, and communication skills), but that’s not all. A comprehensive study conducted by Harvard Business Review highlights the critical role of emotional intelligence as one of the most prominent characteristics of effective leaders. This is equally true of the most effective major gift fundraisers.  

One senior fundraising leader recently shared with me her reflections on the difference between good major gift fundraisers, and great ones. “The very best fundraisers have the ability to listen – really listen – to what is being said,” she observed. “They are intellectually curious; they are self-aware enough to be present in the conversation and to follow the cues of the donor or prospect that they are speaking to.”  

The very best fundraisers listen to understand, rather than to simply reply. As you recruit major gift fundraisers to your organisation, don’t overlook these important characteristics.  

  • Board Members and Volunteer Leaders Board members and volunteers are among our most trusted advisors, our most valued advocates, and our most important donors; yet they can often sell themselves short when it comes to their influence on fundraising.  

High-performing institutions often have a strong group of board members and volunteers engaged in fundraising at every stage of the fundraising cycle. As with any valuable resource, volunteers must be effectively managed, and conscientious major gift fundraisers can provide much needed support.  

2. Priorities 

Now as much as ever, high-value fundraising should be a pillar of many organisations’ income portfolios, and there is growing evidence to support this. In Blackbaud’s Status of UK Fundraising 2022 Benchmark Report, among organisations in which income had increased over the last 12 months, around 40% attributed this to the receipt of “exceptional gifts.”  

To solicit these “exceptional” or transformational gifts, organisations must be able to articulate an ambitious and compelling vision aligned with philanthropic priorities.  

Highly effective fundraising programmes have key processes in place to help drive performance and accountability.

Does your organisation have a differentiating strategy that highlights its distinctiveness and reflects its core values, resources, and culture? Do you have a persuasive and well-defined case for philanthropic support, closely tied to your overarching strategic priorities? What is the extent of your organisational ambition, and how might high-value philanthropy help you attain your goals? 

In addition to arming your major gift fundraisers with the tools and collateral to engage prospects and donors, ensure they can also explain the impact of these big ideas. Because high-level donors are sophisticated investors, they will want to know that their money is being used wisely, or they will stop giving.  

Moreover, organisations that have the most success in attracting high-level philanthropic gifts recognise the importance of bringing donors into the process early, to shape giving opportunities around organisational priorities and donor inclinations. This also allows donors to see the impact of their giving firsthand. 

3. Processes 

Highly effective fundraising programmes have key processes in place to help drive performance and accountability. They will often rely on clear structures, work plans, and metrics to help maximise philanthropic revenue. Some examples include: 

  • Consistent use of CRM systems to manage donor and prospect data 
  • Portfolio review meetings 
  • Moves management processes to guide constituent outreach  
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to track outcomes 
  • A documented solicitation strategy for key prospects and donors 
  • Clarity around stewardship responsibilities, including time-sensitive impact reporting 

Clear processes also ensure that major gift fundraisers are supported as they engage potential donors.  In GG+A’s work with clients, we often cite these as best practices, and we collaborate with each organisation to adapt them accordingly. 


Remember, the thought of building and sustaining an effective high-value fundraising programme does not have to be daunting. On the contrary, with the right people, priorities, and processes in place, fundraising leaders can position their organisations for success.  

Ian Wilson, Senior Vice President, leads GG+A’s UK/Europe practice area and partners with charitable organisations and academic institutions to help them achieve their philanthropic ambitions. He brings more than 20 years of experience to the firm, with expertise that includes driving strategic and cultural change within organisations; building high performing teams; building diverse and sustainable fundraising programmes; and more. 

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About the author

Ian Wilson

Senior Vice President

Ian Wilson is a Senior Vice President working in the UK/Europe practice area at GG+A, where he partners with nonprofits across sectors to help them achieve their philanthropic ambitions.  He brings 23 years of experience to the firm, and expertise that includes:   Driving strategic and cultural change within organizations  Building…