Rule #8: The 2% Rule for Major Gifts

When it comes to asking for a major gift, it can be difficult judging what precise amount to ask for. So what can you use as a guide? Think 2%. Essentially, this rule means that if you want to ask someone for a major gift, such as $1 million, then try to make sure you are asking someone with at least $50 million net worth ($1 million is 2% of $50 million).


When I first heard this rule, I had my doubts. But after much involvement in conversations and asks with many major donors over many years, I have to say that it has proven to be remarkably useful.


There are circumstances where one could venture beyond 2%. For example, sometimes a donor is so strongly supportive of a cause they will contribute well beyond a 2% proportion of their net worth. Also, as donors get older, it will often be the case that the proportion they give becomes much higher: sometimes far in excess of 2%, and in the case of bequests it could be a very substantial proportion of their net worth.


So 2% is helpful, but what else can you do to arrive at an appropriate figure for an ask? The answer to this question is connected to the reason why it is good practice to build relationships and have mature, honest conversations with donors from the beginning.


Good fundraisers take time to get to know a donor, and they will talk about projects and what projects will cost. They are looking for opportunities to test amounts with donors during early conversations. They are looking for signs that the donor is comfortable in considering a high amount or whether a lower amount is appropriate.


If you have taken the time to build trust, and you are talking about a project that the donor strongly cares about, it is remarkable how well a donor will work with you to find the right gift level.