Over all the years that our team has been working with major gift officers, I don’t recall one of them saying to us how much they just looooved qualifying donors into their portfolio.
However, after a portfolio is qualified, we’ve also never heard a major gift officer say, “Gosh, I wish I hadn’t done that.” This process is tough – it is extremely labor intensive, especially the first time you do it or if you’re building a caseload from scratch. But it’s worth it because you will completely change the effectiveness of your work.
Instead of banging their heads against a wall, the MGOs we’ve worked with are now working with donors that actually want to relate to them. And that, as any front-line fundraiser will attest to, is a game changer.
Recently I wrote a blog about the pace of the qualification process to explain how the natural flow of qualifying should go, to help alleviate any frustration at the slow pace. In today’s blog, I want to take a step back to talk about the different scenarios in which you may be starting the qualification process and how to approach qualifying your caseload.
Scenario 1 — You inherited a full caseload.
You might be thinking, “Great, I don’t have to qualify anyone – it’s all done for me.” Wrong. Look, let’s be honest, if an organization has not been following the Veritus Way for major gifts, most likely, most of the donors in an inherited caseload are not qualified. So, what you need to do here is work with your manager and go over every donor and find out if any of those donors went through a qualifying process or if the manager feels like the relationship is solid and the giving behavior is consistent to show this donor should be considered qualified.
All of the other donors that don’t meet these criteria must be considered unqualified, so you either need to put them in a “unqualified pool” of donors to start the qualification process, or, if they don’t even meet the major gift metric with their giving level, put them into mid-level or the direct response program.
Of course, any new donors that meet your metric must also go through a qualifying process before putting them into your portfolio.
Scenario 2 — You are reactivating a caseload for a region or area.
This is a unique situation that came up recently on a peer call for one of our Veritus Group Academy courses. The fundraiser was starting to work with a caseload for a region that had gone inactive, and the donors hadn’t been engaged at all in that time of inactivity. This is a tough situation because those donors have not been well cared for and have possibly lost their connection to the organization.
If this is your situation, then you’ll need to focus on qualifying the caseload donors and working to re-establish the relationship. If you’re working with donors who have not been actively engaged by the organization, you need to also ensure that the donors still meet the criteria for being on a major gift caseload.
Scenario 3 — You have a partial caseload.
If you find yourself in this position, you’ve got a lot to work with, but you’ll need to focus on staying on top of your qualification process while creating a communication plan for the qualified donors.
Using the Donor Engagement Plan (DEP) will help you manage all these moving pieces. It’s important here to be realistic about how much you can do each week. You don’t need to do 20 qualification letters every week; this could easily become overwhelming once you are a few weeks into the process. Staying on schedule with your communication plan and qualification process is more important than pushing out high numbers at the start.
Scenario 4 — You are building a caseload from scratch.
Lucky you! But this is also the scenario that takes the most work. Read this blog post to guide you through it and download this white paper to take you through all the steps. And, as I said at the beginning of this blog, while this process can seem like a pain in the butt, it will ultimately make you a much more effective and successful major gift officer. Remember, once you have a qualified caseload, you’ll be talking to donors who want to relate to you and you’ll know their passions, interests, and communication preferences. This is a game changer for you.
I mean, you want donors in your portfolio who will respond to your emails, phone calls, and take your visits. You want donors who text with you and communicate! This will happen if you qualify your donors into your portfolio. Anything less and you’ll be tearing your hair out wondering why your donors never get back or engage with you.