effort-results Mar18
Over the course of this series on the economics of major gift fundraising I have covered most everything you conceptually need to know about what is important as relates the economics of your caseload.
We’ve talked about old money and new money, about who gets credit and how a caseload grows.
In the post before this one I wrote about how very few donors in your caseload can or will give that very large gift you are looking for.  And this is where I want to spend a little time today – learning how to spot the few donors in your caseload that will make a great deal of difference to the total value you will receive in any given year.
Everyone talks about the 80/20 rule – that 20% of the effort will deliver 80% of the results.  But hardly anyone really runs his or her own personal life or business that way.  We are always distracted by those things we love and enjoy, not necessarily the things that are important, which tend to be more boring.
One of the key objectives in caseload management is figuring out which donors on the caseload can and will (a) be open to upgrading their giving, and (b) be open to giving a substantial gift.  You can’t possibly know this information unless you are actively relating to all of your donors.
And this is where the problem starts for most MGOs.
Jeff and I are continually telling MGOs and their managers that major gifts is a one-to-one effort, NOT a mass or direct marketing effort.  But just as we are repeatedly saying that we continue to see MGOs operate in a mass marketing way – sending the same mail appeal to all their donors, treating all their donors as a group vs. the individuals that they are.
I don’t know why this happens.  I really don’t.
There is one situation I am involved in where the MGO just cannot get it through his head that a donor on his caseload needs to be related to personally.
I think if I called that MGO every morning of every day, including weekends, and said, “Phil (not his real name), don’t forget, each donor on your caseload is an individual.  Find out and serve his or her individual interests and passions.  Don’t do the group thing!”  Even saying that every morning, I still believe this MGO would not get it.  It is so bizarre.
But I digress.
Here’s the point.  If you know the passions and interests of each donor on your caseload and if you are actively servicing those interests and passions, it will start to dawn on you which donors are more interested and engaged and which ones aren’t.
And that knowledge will lead you to know where to spend your time.
When you start to discern that this donor is really not interested in doing more than he does now, then you know that that donor is a “C” donor and should remain mostly in a maintenance mode – a mode which still has a lot of special care but does not demand as much attention as other donors.
When you learn that a donor is more interested but cannot give substantially more, then you know that this donor is a “B” donor and your goal will be to upgrade her and also care for her outrageously.  But the fact is that “B” donors cannot give substantially more and therefore you cannot spend too much time with them.  Yes, you will spend more individual time with them than your “C” donors, but not as much as you will with your “A” donors.
Your “A” donors are those donors who (a) are more interested and engaged, and (b) have the potential to increase their giving substantially.  They are your 20%.  You will spend a great deal more time with them than the other donors.  Why?  Because they can and will do more economically for your organization than the other donors.
Now, here is the key.
Let’s say you have done this A, B, C thing right and in your “A” category you have 10 donors.  Here’s an important point: only 1 or 2 of those donors can and will actually step up and deliver the large gift you are looking for in your caseload.  But do you know who those people are?  If not, it’s important to do the following work:

  1. First, get it in your head that this prioritization of work, donors and effort is an act of your will, not necessarily a fun and enjoyable thing to do.  It may be for some, but it might not be for you.  It is an important act of your will.  So, your head will need to tell you what to do, not your heart.  Along these lines….
  2. Be sure you understand the difference between liking your donor and understanding her economic potential.  Jeff and I see so many mistakes in this area.  “But I like her,” protests the MGO when we ask him to remove a donor from his caseload for lack of economic productivity.  We see so many MGOs who keep donors on their caseload because “I have a wonderful relationship with him” or “She is so nice”, etc.  This is not a reason to keep someone on a caseload!  There is only one reason – the donor, in exchange for realizing the fulfillment of his or her interests and passions via the organization, will give a gift whose economic value contributes significant net value to the organization.  That’s it.  Nothing more.
  3. Lastly, get to know every one of your donors so you can discern which ones will contribute the greatest value and, therefore, which donors you should spend the most time with.  This “getting to know” business is not only being in contact with them but also researching who they are and what their potential is.  If you do this work, which at times will be tedious, you will have the data to help you figure out how to spend your time.

Only you can figure out what your 20% is.  Only you.  And that is why it is important to do this “desk work” – so you know where you are going.
If your caseload is not growing in value it could be that you do not have the right donors on the caseload – donors who can contribute great value to you.
More than likely, however, the real reason why your caseload is not growing is because you haven’t done the work I have outlined in this post.  THAT is the real reason.  You don’t know the donors on your caseload.  You don’t know which ones you should spend more time with.  And so you are running around, unfocused and unproductive because your impulses and heart are driving your activity, not the data.
Now you know what to do.  Just make yourself sit down and do it. Believe me, when you get this work accomplished and then you follow through with it, your best days as an MGO are ahead!