A donor must be qualified to be on a major gift caseload or portfolio. Why? Because not all donors who meet your major gift metric want to relate to anyone in your organization on a more personal basis.
This is a fact. And in our experience, the ratio of those who will qualify to those who won’t qualify is 1 to 3. One out of every three donors who meet your major gift metric will engage with you. The other two will not.
If you didn’t know this, then Jeff and I know you’re suffering – just like thousands of major gift officers around the world – from trying to talk to folks who won’t talk to you.
So, you must qualify donors to have a caseload that’s going to work for you. And if you follow our ratio of 1:3 and you need to have 150 qualified donors, then it follows that you’ll need 450 donors in a caseload pool.
These are the best practice numbers we’ve discovered from decades of experiences we’ve had with thousands of MGOs all around the world.
But here’s a nuance that you should be aware of. Your ratios may not be 1:3. Yours may be 1:2 or 1:5, taking you either a shorter or longer time to qualify a full caseload of donors. This little detail is important to know because (a) it will determine the size of the caseload pool you’ll need to get to your 150 qualified donors, and (b) you’ll need to set expectations internally for MGO and revenue production.
But here’s the question we’ve been asked: what impacts that ratio? What makes it longer or shorter to qualify a caseload of donors? Here are some reasons we’ve uncovered:
- There may have been a prior attempt to qualify. This could cause your ratio to be lower or higher.
- Some geographic regions could be more difficult. For instance, a rural donor may be more accessible than a donor in a big city or in snowbird areas, etc.
- The contact information you have is poor quality. We’ve seen some horrible situations where a MGO is tasked with looking up the contact info for a donor because it hasn’t been properly stored in the database. This not only takes the gift officer away from their caseload, but it can also lead to a much more challenging qualification process.
- Your approach. You may be the reason for qualifying working well or poorly. If you sound too salesy or like you’re asking for a gift, instead of genuinely and authentically trying to deepen the relationship, it will cause rejection. If you do it right, your success/close rate will increase. This includes staying focused on the donor, their interests and passions, and what you can do for them – rather than what they can do for you.
- Not trying enough variety in touch points. Part of the qualifying process includes sharing touch points. See our white paper on this subject. It’s important to use a good mix of communication media including phone calls, email, or other channels if appropriate. And if you don’t yet know the donor’s interests, you may also want to try a variety of topic areas to see what sparks a response.
- You may have the wrong caseload pool. The criteria for selection of donors from which to qualify may be wrong, e.g. no recent giving, or donors selected who are under the criteria you’ve set, or someone internally has “protected” the donors from caseload inclusion, etc. If you’re talking to the wrong donor, your success rate will go down.
If you’re taking longer to qualify donors than the 1:3 or 1:5 close rate, these may be some of the reasons. There may be others. Stop and analyze your situation. Then take steps to correct your approach.
It’s a fact that most donors on your active donor list don’t want to have a more personal relationship with you and your organization. They’re happy just to give and interact more remotely. So, finding the donors who do want to relate is key to your success, and it’s worth spending the time to figure out how to do it best. (Tweet it!)
Regarding your point in #4, what practical advice or tips do recommend to avoid sounding salesy?
The first thing to note is that you aren’t asking for a gift in the qualification process. Your goal is to introduce yourself as the donor’s point of contact and start learning the donors passions and interests. You’ll want to have open-ended questions prepared to ask the donor. You may also want to think through what you say when the donor answers the phone. For example, when the donor picks up, asking “Hi, is this Michael?” can put the donor on edge. Instead, you could say, “Hi NAME, this is Michael calling from Org Name. I’m following up on my introduction letter and wondered if you had a few minutes.” That way the donor clearly knows who you are and why you’re calling.