I’m in the Board of trustees meeting for a regional charity, I’m the Fundraising Director. We’ve got a gap to reach our income target for the year. After discussing the plan to close the gap, one trustee mentions that Antonio Banderas has recently moved into the area. This seems to be changing the subject and I have to coax him to understand his comment.  Well, wouldn’t Mr Banderas be able to donate a large sum to the charity? He is incredibly wealthy after all.

Have you got your eye on those individuals on the Sunday Times Rich List? It’s published annually & the 2020 list came out yesterday. There are levels of wealth that are almost unimaginable. There are also a lot of fundraisers, Chief Executives, trustees and Directors for whom it becomes a huge distraction. If your charity is serious about its major donor fundraising please ignore it.

Why? Well there’s three things your charity needs to bear in mind when deciding who to try and build a relationship with, to hopefully, eventually, secure a major gift. We can take Antonio as an example here:

  1. You need a LINK to the person
    Who can introduce you to this person, persuade them to come to an event, or to have coffee with the charity Chief Executive or Chair? Some of your trustees may know high-net-worth individuals. If you identify an existing or past supporter as being high-net-worth, you may well have contact details and permission – you can then start communicating with them in a different way.
    Did anyone at my charity know Mr Banderas?  Unfortunately not. We didn’t know his agent either. A letter from our Chairman, however wonderfully worded, would have wasted time and resource.
  1. They must have an INTEREST in your type of cause or charity
    Are you a small local community charity, but this individual seems to fund wildly different projects internationally? Or is this person passionate about climate change, and you think your environmental work could be right up her street. All causes are worthy. Put yourself in the philanthropist’s shoes; they’ll follow their passions and interests, so you should too.
    Mr Banderas? He hadn’t funded any similar causes and showed little interest in the local community.
  1. The ABILITY to give
    With the Rich List, this is the easy part. The logic goes that they are rich, so therefore they could easily give a large gift to our charity. £10,000 or £100,000 or £1million – it wouldn’t be much for them would it? In major donor fundraising we should focus on building really personal, tailored relationships with those who have got wealth. Those on the Rich List have wealth. Mr Banderas? A big tick for this one

The logic goes that they are rich, so therefore they could easily give a large gift to our charity. £10,000 or £100,000 or £1million – it wouldn’t be much for them would it?

However, without a link to them, without them having an interest, you’ll be wasting precious charity resource at a time when fundraisers and charity leaders are stretched so, so much. This is before taking into consideration that philanthropists are approached by hundreds of charities per year. Those on the Rich List are likely approached by thousands.

There are models that can help you prioritise who would most likely give to your charity from those you have in mind. However, if an L-I-A model all seems a bit jargon-ey, then a great first step is to quite simply ignore yesterday’s list. Please don’t ask fundraisers to follow up with people on the Rich List, and if you know all of this as a fundraiser, make sure you’re assertive in this area. You simply don’t have the time to be distracted.

Focus instead on those who already know your charity, who you have a link to, and you will be so much better placed to raise more to make a difference in our society.

Photo of Louise, charity fundraising consultant

Louise Morris is Founder of Summit Fundraising. She helps charities raise more large gifts with a confident and sustainable approach to major donor fundraising. You can follow her on Twitter @summitfundraise, message on LinkedIn, or get in touch at

This was posted on 18 May 2020.

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