How can “Moves Management” help me bring in major gifts?

How can “Moves Management” help me bring in major gifts?

“Moves Management” is a process for cultivating major gifts. This is top level fundraising, typically reserved for full time, professional staff. If you’re planning on hiring professional staff to solicit major gifts work, they should be able to talk intelligently about how they incorporate a form of moves management into their fundraising.

So what is moves management? Think of a board game you are trying to move your piece from the starting point to the winner’s circle. The whole cycle of moves can be seen from the outset, although you don’t know how quickly you’ll get from point A to point B, or if you’ll skip point C and get to point D. When using moves management, you create a plan to identify qualified prospects from your existing donor pool and move them to the final destination when the check gets cashed.

Your basic moves:

1: Create suspect pool

These are people who are already giving to your organization that you believe might have the capacity to make a major gift. Indicators include how long they have been giving to your organization, how much they give, how frequently they give. I say these are ‘suspects’ because you have not yet determined if they are interested in the personal contact involved in moves management.

2: Qualify your prospects

Take your list of suspects and do two things. If you have access to a donor research tool like Donorsearch or Wealth Engine, run your list through them. These web-based tools use public information to create a giving profile for each donor. Secondly, call them and invite them out to an introductory meeting. It could be a lunch, or a tour of your facility. A qualified prospect is someone who can give a major gift and wants to talk to you.

3: Cultivate the relationship

These are moves that you can plan. Take people out, send them notes on their birthdays, learn more about their capacity to give. These ‘moves’ should be ordered to forming a deeper relationship with your donor, as well as finding out what kind of gift they might be able to give. You should never move to the next stage until you have a good understanding of where your parish or ministry stands in their giving priorities.

4: The ‘Ask’

Like proposing marriage, the ask should only be made when you already know what the answer is going to be. That doesn’t mean that the ask is ever easy. But they should know that it’s coming and not be surprised by the timing or the amount. Preparing the right ask at the right time is the fruit of a cultivation stage that really focuses on building a relationship with the donor, rather than sucking up to them to get into their wallet. Really, they should be excited about the ask. Making a big gift to a ministry they love should thrill them. Like a proposal of marriage from a beloved.

5: Stewardship

Once the ask has been made and gift received, the relationship is only beginning. Now that the donor has invested in your parish or ministry, you need to make sure that they are appropriately thanked and the relationship carefully stewarded. You are trying to build a long-term relationship between the donor and the parish or ministry, so you need to invest effort in cultivation on this side of the gift as well.

6: Ask again

A relationship, once initiated and carefully stewarded, can be a long-term source of support and joy for both the donor and the receiving organization. If you’re doing a good job cultivating the relationship with the person after the ask, then you should have no problem knowing when the right time has come for another ask. It might be annually, or every several years if you’re doing multi-year commitments. The main point I’m trying to make is that you’re not just looking for one big gift from your donor, but a lifetime of gifts and engagement in your mission.


The cynical among you might be saying, “You’re just pretending to build a relationship so you can get a big gift.” This is a very real danger. It was the Apostle in charge of fundraising that betrayed our Lord. Jesus said it would have been better if he had never been born. This in and of itself should fill us with the fear of God and help us to focus on doing good for a good reason. Our motivations must be as pure as possible, and our practices must be perfectly ethical.

So build a real relationship. Be honest about your intent in building the relationship. And sincerely try to do right by the donors that you’re cultivating.

Looking for more articles about major gift fundraising? Try these:

Check out The Fundraiser’s Playbook for a full list of fundraising articles.

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