Here’s the thing about people like Jeff and me. Not everything we say is true. Well, hang on – it IS true, but it might not be your experience.

For instance, we say you need to have a caseload pool of 450 donors who meet your major gift criteria in order to qualify the donors in the pool down to a list of 150 donors. But your experience, with your donor list, is that you need 390 donors in your caseload pool to get to the 150 qualified donors. Or maybe you need 600 donors.

What’s the difference? It’s your experience relative to ours. Our experience is that on average, 1 out of every 3 donors who meets the criteria for major gifts will actually want to relate to you as a MGO more personally. 1 out of every 3. But you might experience that it’s 1 out of every 2.6 or 1 out of every 4. You get the picture.

The bigger point is that what Jeff and I are stating is the principle that not every donor who meets the major gift criteria will want to relate more personally. THAT is the point. You’ll need to discover what your ratio is with your donors. So, start with our 1:3 and discover what yours is.

Or we may state that every full-time MGO needs to have 150 qualified donors on their caseload. That’s true. But your experience and circumstances may dictate another number. For instance, one MGO we managed for a large West Coast client only had 12 qualified donors on his caseload. Why? Because his caseload value was $8 million annually, and each of those twelve relationships was so complex and labor-intensive that that’s all he had time for.

So, 150 is the norm. But your circumstances may dictate something else. Now, be careful that your circumstances don’t include distractions like doing events, airport runs for authority figures and other time-wasters. But even then, it’s a good baseline to start with 150 qualified donors for a full-time MGO. If the MGO is half-time, then half of that – 75 qualified donors. Or, there may be very complex donor relationships who contribute high value that might dictate a different quantity.

When you hear us talk and write about ranges, rates and goals, always think about the general principles behind our numbers. Our experience covers decades of actual numbers which are averaged out. Your experience may be different.

At this point, you might be saying: “well then, how do I know what’s true”? Good question. Our answer is basically this: look for the principle. Principles like:

  1. Not all current donors who meet your mid-level or major gift metric will want to relate to you. Caseload donors must be qualified.
  2. A mature annual caseload production value should cover, at an acceptable ratio of expense to income, the total expenses of the MGO.
  3. Over time, caseloads will grow in value.
  4. Every caseload will have donors in it who can give transformationally.
  5. Front-line fundraisers should focus on the donors on their caseload and not be engaged in other activities/responsibilities in the organization.
  6. Front-line fundraisers should have administrative support so that they can concentrate their efforts on donors rather than on administrative work.
  7. Donors are interested in specific things in your organization. Don’t make the mistake that they aren’t – that all they’re interested in is your general cause.
  8. You must work proactively to develop donor offers for your front-line fundraisers.
  9. Donors are essentially the same in their demographic and psychographic profiles. They aren’t different in one part of the country from another part of the country. Or different in rural areas vs. urban areas.

And this list can go on. My point is to pay attention to the principle we’re stating, and use our numbers (which are derived from actual experience from thousands of front-line fundraisers and hundreds of non-profits) as your baseline.

What Jeff and I are saying is actually true. It isn’t made up consultant stuff that sounds pretty and makes for good marketing. It is in-the-trenches practical and useable truth. Make it your own by applying your experience.