7 Keys to a Successful Major Gift Program – Key #2: Make Sure You Have the Facts!
In this seven-part series, we’re talking about what makes for the ideal major gift program. So far, we’ve established that it’s important to have the proper context for major gift fundraising – an ideal structure and organization for this important high-touch activity. Without a proper “home” for major gift fundraising, you can’t hope to be successful.
Key #2 is about analysis or, as I have titled this post, “Make Sure You Have the Facts!”
I always like to start any endeavor or any plan with fact-gathering. What’s true? What’s real? Those are important questions before you jump into action. In major gifts, we get so focused on getting the money and reaching management goals that we hardly stop to figure out who we should be relating to.
“Fire! Ready? Aim!”
I know the pressure to reach your management goals is bearing down on you. And even if it isn’t, you have that internal pressure to achieve, to prove you have value, and to do good work.
But hang on! Stop! Analyze first. What is true? What is real?
Jeff and I spend a great deal of time talking about analysis and how important it is as the primary driver in caseload donor selection and performance. Why is this so important? Because not just any donor on the caseload will do. If you’re going to have, as we suggest, 150 qualified donors on your caseload, you’ll need at least three times that number from your donor file for a caseload pool to qualify down to the 150. And of all the donors on your file, you’ll need to know which ones to select.
So how do you get to what’s true and real? How do you get to the facts? Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Look at your donor file and find those donors who are consistently giving $1,000+ cumulatively over recent calendar years (donors think in terms of calendar, not fiscal years) – at least the current year plus three past years.
  2. Pair that information to any wealth/asset information you have to determine capacity.
  3. Organize this information by types of donors (individual donors, foundations, corporations/businesses, other organizations).
  4. Select off recent high givers (actual giving) that have high capacity.
  5. Keep an eye on recently lapsed high givers that have high capacity.
  6. Put all those donors that have the highest recent giving, plus high capacity, onto your caseload pool list.
  7. Put this list through a qualifying process to arrive at your qualified pool.

This is how you get to the facts about WHO to put on a caseload pool and then qualify.
Then once you have a qualified caseload, you do this same analysis with the caseload every month to keep an eye on how the donors are performing and what remedial steps you should take in managing the caseload.
Notice that this whole process is about continually crunching the data. Why? To uncover what’s happening with donors and thereby have THAT be your guide to action and planning.
To be sure, all this analysis is complex and takes time. But it’s an essential key for success in major gift fundraising.
A friend once told me, “facts are friendly.” And they are. Sometimes they’re really hard to come by. But pursue them with discipline and energy, and you’ll find that they truly are the friends people say they are. (Tweet it!)
Read the whole series, 7 Keys to a Successful Major Gift Program:

Key #1: Attributes of the Ideal Major Gift Organization
Key #2: Make Sure You Have the Facts! (This post)
Key #3: Do You Have the Right Moves?
Key #4: Develop Offers that Donors Want
Key #5: Turn Planned Giving into Strategic Giving
Key #6: Treat Corporations and Foundations Just Like Individuals
Key #7: What You Get Done Matters!