Colleges and universities increasingly rely on large gifts from single contributors rather than smaller gifts from a large number of alumni, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. The website found that more than 75 percent of fundraising in higher education came from the top 1 percent of donors in 2011, up from 64 percent in 2006.Big donors are important to college fundraising efforts.

This means that institutions of higher education are going to lean heavily on major gifts officers to maintain fundraising efforts. These individuals are often responsible for donations between $25,000 and $10 million, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Unfortunately, the website also cited data from the Education Advisory Board, which found the average tenure of these professionals is between 18 and 24 months.

As the economy has not been kind to recent graduates, colleges are facing difficulties in gaining donations from millennials, the Chronicle of Philanthropy stated. The website cited a report from consulting firm Achieve, which found that 75 percent of millennials would give to other charitable organizations before contributing to their college’s fund. With new graduates not especially interested in giving to their schools, major gifts will likely continue to form the backbone of fundraising efforts for these institutions in the coming years.

EAB put together a profile of successful major gifts officers to help schools in their searches. The top performers exhibited shared traits, and EAB dubbed this group “Curious Chameleons.” This group shared behavioral and linguistic capabilities, as well as the ability to synthesize information and an assertiveness in communication with prospects. This information could be beneficial to schools when hiring staff. In addition, the importance of solid donation management software can’t be overlooked in fundraising campaigns, since prior donors are more likely to contribute again. Having a good staff and software are both imperative for college fundraising success.