Don’t let the Rich List wrong-foot you

Last weekend’s publication of the Rich List, no doubt, had fundraisers everywhere scrambling for The Sunday Times. Many see the List as a handy guide to who’s making money - and more interestingly, who’s giving it away. For some it’s a revealing measure of power and influence; for others, it’s a tantalising data bank of potential big givers. It’s also the reason why too many major gift fundraisers find themselves wrong-footed.

One of the universal laws of major gift fundraising is that people give to people. Understanding this fundamental principle enables us to cut through much of the hype around rich lists that promise a fast-track to money. In our experience, the most meaningful prospect evaluations are unlikely to come from a list that bears no connection to your organisation or project. Knowing your constituency as individuals and carefully assessing their commitment, is at the heart of any sustainable major gift strategy. In short, you need to have a solid understanding of each key prospect’s capacity to give, their inclination to give and their anticipated interest in the project or programme you’re embarking on.

Access is everything

Generating long-term fundraising success also depends on the most important ingredient of all; an identifiable route to the prospects you’ve highlighted. Whether it’s your trustees, governors, or fundraising team members - there needs to be personal access to your potential major givers. Simply churning out the stats and knowing how wealthy people are, won’t be enough. After all, there are lots of well-off people who give nothing. And plenty of those who aren’t so wealthy still make generous gifts, often through their Wills.

So, by all means grab your latest edition of the Rich List, but remember that major gift fundraising is inherently personal. It works on the basis of trust and the strength of relationships that exist between people; it has little to do with mining the data of strangers.

If you feel you’d benefit from a no-obligation discussion of your organisation’s major gift strategy, or you’d like to know more about our services at Gifted Philanthropy, visit our website or contact

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