Editors Note:  DB&A is pleased to feature this article from partner and nonprofit thought leader Mike Buwalda; Founder of Money for Ministry.


“We are dancing in the aisles over here!”

A $1 million-dollar estate gift had just been confirmed with the Oklahoma-based ministry, and they were ecstatic.

The development director went on to explain that this “under the radar” donor had been giving faithfully to their events for 16 years, but never personally attended an event. A hidden major donor.

But sometimes these “hidden” major donors aren’t so hidden. For example, a ministry in Washington DC who recently reported that their largest and most visible major giver, a 7-figure annual donor, had responded to a planned gift mailing that he was thinking about leaving a legacy gift to this charity. His “hidden” interest never came up in their previous personal conversations, but now the moment and method was right for him to reveal his intentions to deepen his support.

You have “hidden” major donors just like this in your existing donor file.

How do I know that? Because over the past 3 or 4 years alone, God gave our team a front row seat to see over $500 million in legacy gift commitments surface. The ministries receiving these gifts are proactively participating in “the largest wealth transfer in human history(which the media reported officially began last summer).

Would you like to start or expand your participation in this historic wealth transfer? Good news, you don’t need to waste time and money on “trial and error” approaches. Instead, here is a proven 4-part ministry-tested system you can use:

#1 – Message to the Masses.

Every successful planned gift program in the country begins with a commitment to consistent year-round messaging in your existing donor communications (ex. receipts newsletter, web, major donor visit leave-behinds, etc.). And what should that message be? That planned giving is not merely a legal transaction or a tax-savings strategy but is an act of worship. Your job is to be a faithful seed planter, and then trust God for the growth (1 Corinthians 3).

#2 – Interact with the Interested.

Look for ways to invite your donors to dialogue with you about planned giving. A capital campaign is a great platform to initiate that conversation. Or you can offer check-boxes on reply devices in your direct mail or at events. Or send a survey to assess who your interested prospects and legacy givers are.

#3 – Connect with the Committed.

Identify donors who have already told you that your ministry is in their will. Then proactively build that list. It’s really important to know who your invisible major donors are, and then to build that relationship. If you don’t, your legacy givers can decide to pull you out of their will as they’re making their final will revisions. I call this the “bridal party effect” – just like brides and grooms pick their current group of friends to stand up in their wedding, invisible major donors also include their ministry “friends” in their will – the ones who kept in touch; even as they grow older and their giving patterns changed.

#4 – Traction with the Team.

Ask everyone on your staff who connects with donors to encourage people to consider including your ministry in their will or Trust. That includes team members who don’t know anything about planned giving – the person who prints your receipts, edits your newsletter, organizes your events, manages your web site, and makes annual fund or capital campaign donor calls. In short – all hands-on deck!

Ready to get started? Go to www.moneyforministry.com and click “Free Report” to learn what the legacy gift potential of your donor file is, along with ministry-tested tips to maximize the potential of your file.


reach hidden major donors , Money for Ministry

Money for Ministry is a legacy gift ministry firm based in Grand Rapids, MI, serving a wide variety of national and local Christian nonprofits and rescue missions, and partnering with the most respected service providers in the ministry fundraising arena including Dickerson Bakker and Associates.


Is your ministry ready to reach hidden major donors? Contact us today to learn how DB&A’s major gift solutions can help propel your nonprofit forward.


Mike Buwalda, Money for Ministry