The short answer to this oft-asked question is; it depends how much you are asking for!

Our recent survey of over 50 major donors, to a range of causes, showed that the larger the gift the more likely it was to be restricted. This is no surprise, as it is human nature to want more say in what happens to your money the more you give, just as more thought goes into larger purchases.

Breaking down restricted giving by donation amount, however, gives us more insight into the levels at which donors become more discerning in their giving. The table below shows the results from the pool of 50 major donors we interviewed.

This shows that most donors are happy to give unrestricted gifts to cover core costs up to £10,000, around half for core between £10,000-£50,000 and one third will give to core when giving over £50,000..

Charities are often concerned about having enough new and innovative projects to put in front of major donors. Our interviews suggest that many donors understand that the ongoing work of the charity is vital and are prepared to support core service activity. Larger gifts by nature often relate to specific, tangible projects or services, such as capital items, but even at £50,000+ level one third of donors are prepared to trust charities to spend their donation wisely.

Our recommendation is that charities worry less about creating projects for donors and focus instead on increasing their donors’ understanding of what they do, why and the impact. The more effectively charities engage their donors, the less of an issue restricted gifts will become, as donors will understand where their money will be best used.

For further advice on major donor insight and strategy development please contact us.

Notes on major donor survey:

  • Conducted in 2016-17
  • Random sample of 50 active major donors
  • All gifts between £1,000 and £100,000
  • 26 men and 24 women were interviewed