Date of Graduation

Spring 5-16-2020

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA)


School of Management


This Capstone research assesses the views and experiences of development professionals who specialize in major gift fundraising, specifically related to major donor practices in giving to a nonprofit’s general operating funds. By learning why major gift donors have these views and how it affects the social sector, nonprofit leaders can start to better understand what they can do to better cultivate these relationships so that major gift donors eventually trust the nonprofit organization enough to give unrestricted funds. The goal is to help nonprofit organizations increase organizational capacity so that social missions can be achieved.

A literature review largely influenced the research questions that will guide the methodology of this project. These questions help guide the researcher’s methodology, and are asking the what, why and how unrestricted major gifts affect nonprofit infrastructure - if it does at all:

  • RQ1: What is the effect of major gift donor unrestricted giving on a nonprofit organization’s infrastructure?
  • RQ2: What views do major gift donors hold on donating to general operating funds as opposed to specific areas & why?
  • RQ3: What are the most successful ways to foster donations from major gift donors to general operating funds?

In order to understand how development professionals steward relationships with MG donors so that they’re inclined to donate to a nonprofit organization’s general operating fund, the issue was examined from quantitative and qualitative perspectives. The quantitative analysis consisted of issuing a survey, while the qualitative analysis focused on interviews with development professionals and major gift experts. Results show that while development professionals agree that unrestricted major giving can substantially affect a nonprofit’s operating capacity, the idea that it’s the major gift donor’s responsibility to do so has mixed reactions. Development professionals of all organization sizes also agree that major gift solicitation is difficult, but does not attribute that to major gift donors not being aware of the difference between program and overhead costs. This is more prevalent in smaller organizations. The researcher recommends that development professionals focus on strengthening their relationships with major gift donors and building their trust so that solicitation for unrestricted gifts will become a norm.