In a climate of reduced public sector funding and greater competition for other sources of funds, charities are increasingly exploring alternative funding streams.

Major gifts are one of the fastest growing sources of new income for charities in the UK, and whilst this has traditionally been the domain of larger organisations, many local charities are now considering whether they have the potential to benefit too.

However, there can be significant barriers to success. Trustees may be hesitant to pursue major donor fundraising because they don’t understand what it involves. Some charities see it as a ‘quick fix’ without understanding the timescales and investment that is necessary, or simply lack the information, tools and confidence to get started.

When I first started working at Sussex Community Foundation in 2006 the organisation had only recently been set up. I therefore had the privilege of developing from the outset, along with a team of staff, trustees and ambassadors, a comprehensive major donor strategy that resulted in many millions of pounds being raised to benefit Sussex charities.

Identifying and building relationships with supporters is at the heart of the process. This takes time and requires patience, determination and commitment. There is a unique blend of creativity and lateral thinking involved, alongside solid systems, research and attention to detail.

In my new role as a funding advisor and charity consultant I am keen to pass on the lessons I have learnt to other local charities.

For example in a recent ‘Bitesize’ workshop organised by Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Community Works, I shared with participants the essential building blocks of successful major donor fundraising. The workshop provided an overview of the 7 step process involved, including:

  • The essential ‘pipeline’ approach of identifying and engaging with prospects
  • What it requires for an organisation to be successful
  • An understanding of the role of Chairman, trustees, staff & ambassadors
  • The fundamentals of Prospect Research and a list of useful resources.
  • Ideas for involving and engaging potential supporters, and some pointers on what to ask for, and when.

Ultimately, the aim is that participants go away with good idea of what major donor fundraising involves, and a clear process to help them get started.

I shall be running similar training sessions over the coming months, if you would be interested in signing up for one of these, or would like to arrange an in-house workshop specifically tailored for your organisation, please get in touch.

For more information see