I stopped giving to the organization in 1997. Yet I am still on their mailing list, receiving very expensive direct mail appeals, reminding me that I was once a great donor and my support meant so much – and could I give again?
That was so many years ago. And this organization is a nationally-known non-profit you would immediately recognize.
Something is terribly wrong there.
But this is not a unique situation.
Take the MGO who claims to regularly maintain communications with 1,200 people on his caseload. Or one that Jeff and I heard about last week, who said she had 2,300 donors on her caseload.
Something is terribly wrong here as well.
But the two situations I’ve described above are fairly simple to understand. Someone is making wrong judgments about how and when to clean the list, and how many to leave on a caseload.
More difficult is the MGO with 150 qualified caseload donors where, upon inspection and investigation, we discover that 15 of the donors should no longer be there. Why? Because they have stopped giving, lowered the dollar value of their giving, or given strong signals that they are no longer interested.
This happens in major gifts. A caseload is dynamic. Its population ebbs and flows as time goes on. And that’s why you need to look at how things are going at least twice a year (Jan and June/July – or when a donor gives you a strong signal) and make decisions about every donor on your caseload.
Here are four reasons you should take a donor off, some more obvious than others – listed here in no particular order:
- They ask to come off.
- Their economic circumstances have changed such that they no longer meet caseload criteria. It could be divorce, health, death, change of interest, etc. But you know when this happens.
- A donor of greater economic value, whom you have qualified, shows up. This is touchy, I know. But this is the organizational values side of major gifts you must pay attention to. You only have so much time, so you just cannot continue to add donors to your caseload. You must drop some to add others. That is the economic reality of a caseload. So, you might be in a situation where you have a “C-level” donor with an annual value of $2,500 that will need to go to a mid-level program, allowing space for a new $5,000-a-year donor. (Read more about Tiering Donors here.)
- Your caseload gets so complex and some of your donors get so valuable that you need to move some of your donors to another MGO. We have often experienced situations where a MGO is so successful at managing their caseload that a smaller group of their donors grow to a value and level of management complexity that the caseload size must be reduced to 75 donors or 30 donors. It is not wise to try to maintain a caseload of 150 qualified donors when this happens. You must re-structure and downsize.
Remember, there are two important values you are managing as a MGO. The first is the donor-centered value, where you are singularly focused on serving the donor’s passions and interests. The other is an organizational value, where you are securing net revenue for program and maximizing their return on the investment they’ve made in your work.
Do not let your appreciation and care for individual donors cloud your judgment when it comes to re-structuring your caseload. (Tweet it!) This is important work that must be done if the good programs of your organization are going to thrive and be properly financed.