Where are you going?
As a major gift officer, your most pressing concerns at all times are:

  1. Maintaining strong and healthy relationships with your donors,
  2. Making monthly revenue goals,
  3. Cultivating your donors for a successful solicitation, and
  4. Serving your caseload donors outrageously.

If you are doing these four things right, almost all of your day, week and month is taken up. This is a good thing. However, one thing that often gets lost with major gift officers like you is the ability to step back and plan for the long term.
You can get so caught up in the day-to-day that you either don’t think about or don’t take the time to understand the big picture and plan for where you are going with your donors.
Here is what I suggest to help you maintain a long-term view of your donor portfolio, while also making sure you are always focused on the four areas above:

Review organizational programs and projects to support donor revenue growth. This is important. It’s one thing to project revenue for your donors, but it’s another to match that up with the organization’s strategic plan. As you know, you are always matching the donor’s interests and passions with all the things your organization does to carry out your mission. It’s critical that you can identify those projects and programs that will need funding over the next 3-5 years. Some things to consider:

  • Have you reviewed your current donors and matched them up with their areas of current giving?
  • How do your donors’ current giving patterns match up to all the projects and programs you have?
  • Is it evenly distributed? Is it skewed to one type of program? Is that program fully funded, or will it continue to grow?

As the major gift officer it is important to sit down with program and finance to understand the long-term growth of programs and what the need will be to fund that growth from individual giving.

Create a three-year revenue plan for your caseload portfolio. You can do this after you create your revenue goals for the next year with each of your donors. Now that you have established those one-year goals, what is the total value of your current portfolio? With your manager (if you have one), discuss some overall yearly revenue goals over the next three years that match up to your program goals. Is it reasonable to have 15, 20 or even 30% growth per year? For example, if you are at $1 million in total caseload value today, in three years at 15% growth per year you are striving for $1,520,875 in total revenue.

Review caseload strength. Review your current tiers of A, B and C level donors. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How many donors do you currently have in each tier level, based on 150 total donors?
  • What is the value of each tier level?
  • Let’s take our example of 15% growth per year – how would your tiers have to change in number and value to support that growth? Do your Tier A donors have the current capacity to support that growth?
  • Who is coming up in your B level donors that have the ability by year three to now be in A level?
  • Who are the weak links in your Tier C donor portfolio that either have to show growth in the next year or will need to be replaced with stronger donors who are being qualified?

How are you going to achieve it? It’s one thing to put goals on paper, but it’s another to implement. I like to bullet-point this part. You don’t need to write up a long treatise of the plan. One part of the plan might be to do more extensive research on your A and B level donors to understand capacity in the first quarter of the three-year growth plan. Another would be to plan more site visits with A level donors, because you know if you can get a donor to the actual need you will see higher levels of giving. Another part of the plan is to provide improved reporting of impact. Perhaps it’s focusing on 3-4 donors to cultivate for 6- or 7-figure gifts over the next three years, and all that it will take to do that.

Evaluation. Along the way of achieving your three-year revenue caseload goals, I would plan ongoing reviews with your manager. So, along with your ongoing meetings with your manager on how you are doing against current revenue goals by donors this year, you can sit down quarterly to review how you are doing on the implementation of your long-term goals. This will help you stay focused.

Along with the immediate cultivation and stewardship of your donors, you need to be thinking about the longer-term health and growth of your donor portfolio. It’s not always easy. You have a lot of pressure for immediate results. But major gift fundraising is a long game. Relationships take time. To be successful over the long term you need to think long-term. You need to know where you are going. Do you know?