The books on 2018 should be closed. This is a great week for you to take time to evaluate the 2018 performance of your portfolio. Remember, your strategy is to continually increase the value of your caseload over time, so that you’re working with the most productive donors possible.
This means that some of the donors in your caseload have to come off and be “sent down” to either your mid-level program or your regular direct-response program. And you need to bring in other qualified donors who have more propensity and capacity.
In other words, you need to help donors find the right home in your organization.
Now, you might think that this is a pretty cold statement coming from the “relationship people” at Veritus Group. The reality is, though, that while you’re trying to be good stewards toward your donors, you also have to be good stewards of your organization’s time and resources.
The fact is that some donors whom you originally qualified into your portfolio, over time, have shown that they really will not continue being major donors. And that is okay. What’s not okay is that you let them remain on your portfolio while other donors with higher propensity and capacity aren’t given the one-on-one attention they need, and they languish in the middle.
Unfortunately, major gift portfolios all over the country are filled with reluctant or uninterested donors who are essentially bringing down their organizations’ return on their investment in fundraising staff, and so these donors are diverting the attention of the major gift officer from helping to grow real major donors’ engagement and giving.
This is why we see little or no growth in many major gifts portfolios. So the return on investment goes down each year, because the cost to cultivate those portfolios continues to rise.
It’s not sustainable. Yet Richard and I believe that most major gift managers and MGOs are not noticing this dynamic as it unfolds. Something happens in the portfolio, like a big unexpected gift that comes from one donor and boosts overall revenue in the portfolio. So on the surface, it feels like the MGO is making great gains. But in reality, this unexpected big gift is masking the poor giving behavior of a number of donors who either stopped giving or gave less.
Now is the time to focus on those donors. This is the month to evaluate them, most likely remove some of them, and replace them with higher-value donors.
There is also another type of donor who, in the back of your mind, you know you need to remove from your portfolio as well. Those are the donors who are giving the same amount year after year after year. Let’s be honest: these are the donors in your portfolio that you can always count on. They’re consistent. But you know they’re not going to give more than what they have been giving over the last several years. They just don’t have the capacity.
Why are they still on your portfolio? Why are you not opening up your portfolio to new donors that have much more propensity and capacity? Are you afraid of losing that consistent revenue from your portfolio and not making your revenue goals if you remove them?
Major gift work is not about being comfortable.
Major gifts is about helping donors make an impact through your organization, and doing that in the most efficient and effective way possible for the financial health of your organization. You cannot do that if you have a number of donors in your portfolio who aren’t major donors.
This is the harsh reality of major gifts. If you’re going to be a good steward of your organization’s resources, you can’t work one-on-one with every donor… no matter how awesome they are. (Tweet it!)
But think of it this way. There are many homes in your organization. Every donor has a home. It just might not be on your street. Your job is to help them find the right home.