Do a little exercise right now.  Take your list of donors and look at their giving record in the 2010 calendar year.  Yes, 2010 – not 2011.  We’ll get to that.  And forget about your fiscal year – it has no bearing on this exercise.
Now, look at that same list of donors and see how many have upgraded their giving in 2011.  Go down the list and count the donors who have given at least 1 penny more in 2011 than they did in 2010. Yup, 1 penny!  Then divide the resulting number (of donors) by your total list of donors to get to a percentage.  If it’s higher than 20%, good for you!  If it’s lower, then there is work to be done.
Now do the same for 2011 compared to 2012 YTD – again, calendar years.  How is that percentage working out?  What do you think it will be by the time you get to the end of December 2012?  If you will be over 20% of the donors upgrading, then things are going well.
Please remember, we are talking here about DONOR counts, not dollar value.
You can have a 25% increase in total donated dollar value for your caseload from one year to the next and still be below 20% in the number of donors who have actually upgraded.  And THAT is a problem.
This whole exercise is about making sure you are in touch with which donors on your caseload can be upgraded in their giving.  And if you haven’t thought about it this way, on an individual basis, then you will not be successful in managing and stewarding your donors.
So, if by now, in reading this post, you find yourself bored and feeling impatient with this topic, may I give you a tiny piece of advice?
I know this kind of work is not stimulating and exciting – certainly, for many MGO’s, it is not as fun as visiting a program or hanging out with a donor.  I know.  But here’s my advice: if you, as an act of your will, don’t get in touch with the following three things, as relates your caseload, you will not be successful in your job.  And, hopefully, success in your job does grab your attention.

  1. Who, on your caseload, is inclined to give substantially if you present the right opportunities?  This is about the 1 or 2 donors who can give 6 and 7 figure gifts.
  2. Who is more in a maintenance mode and will, likely, just give the same amounts every year?
  3. Who would be open to giving more if you present the right opportunities?  This group is the 20% upgrading group I am talking about in this post.

While you might think that a majority of your effort in dealing with the donors on your caseload is about program and relationship building, what I am putting forward here is that a critical driver to doing the strategic thing with each of those donors is knowing where you are going with them in terms of their giving.
Will a few of them give substantially more?  If so, who are they?  Will a group of them be open to upgrading their giving?  If so, who are they?  And, which donors are more in a stewardship maintenance mode?
You must know this basic information about every donor on your caseload if you are going to be successful.
Also, knowing this information about every donor on your caseload is the respectful and relationally right thing to do for the donor.  It’s about them being known by you.  And you know what it’s like to be “known” by someone.  It’s comfortable.  It’s warm. It’s intimate.  It’s real.
Have you been around someone who really does not KNOW you and does not make any effort to know you?  There is a lot of chatter, to be sure – a lot of noise.  A great deal of energy is expended, but it is all a whirlwind of nothingness.  It means nothing, because the person does not know you.
When I tell you about those donors on your caseload who could give more – that group of 20% – what I am saying is: know them.  Know that they can give more.  Know that they will give more.  And then set about finding those program elements in your charity that will bring them joy.