If there is anything that you could do right now to make your life easier as a major gift officer, it would be to make sure all your donors are qualified. This means that the donors in your portfolio not only made a qualifying major gift, but that they also want to relate to you in a personal, meaningful way.
I cannot tell you what a difference this will make as you cultivate and steward your portfolio.
Yet in almost every portfolio we first encounter with a major gift officer, there are dozens and sometimes hundreds (yes, you read that right) of donors who are sitting in a portfolio even though they’ve never responded. This is very frustrating to the major gift officer.
Why can’t the MGO get these major donors to respond? Because those donors don’t want a relationship with you.
They don’t want you to call, write, or visit. And if you don’t know weed these people out of your portfolio, you’re going to be pulling your hair out.
In fact, only about 1/3 of donors who give you a major gift want to relate to you in a personal and meaningful way. 33.3333%! That’s it.
I’m going to be even more blunt. If you don’t qualify your portfolio, you cannot call yourself a donor-centered fundraiser. Maybe you’re focused on making some kind of unrealistic number set by management. But chasing donors who are not interested serves neither your organization nor the donor.
Richard and I get calls all the time from worn-out MGOs who are about ready to quit because they’ve been handed a list of 500 donors and told to bring in a million dollars from it. This is a real, everyday occurrence, folks!
But even if you only have a full caseload of 150 donors and only a small portion of them are qualified, you will end up equally frustrated. Your day will consist of trying to reach out to donors who never pick up the phone, never respond to an email, never attend an event… Day after day, you’ll sit in your office panicked, because you can’t get any meetings with these donors.
Imagine if you actually had a portfolio of qualified donors who’ve confirmed that they want to hear from you? How much easier would that make your job?
Besides making your life much easier on yourself, it’s also important to qualify your portfolio is because it’s good stewardship of your organization’s resources. Why would your organization want to pay you to cultivate donors who don’t want to be cultivated?
It’s a total waste of money. Yet organizations keep doing it.
So do yourself and your organization a favor, and spend the time and energy to properly qualify your portfolio.
If you want to know exactly how to do this, step by step, click here and you can download our free white paper that tells you in great detail what to do. We even give you sample letters and call scripts to use.
I’m going to be honest with you. One of the reasons most portfolios are not qualified is because it takes a ton of time and energy to do this work. And in many cases that Richard and I observe, leadership is too impatient to allow this work to be done right.
Leaders and fundraisers need to understand the following about qualifying donors:
- It takes time: It could be anywhere from 3-8 months. Set expectations.
- It’s hard work: You have to be consistent in your approach. Be patient and follow the structure if you want to see results.
- It’s the best thing you can do to succeed in fundraising.
Think of having a full caseload of qualified donors as if you were slowly opening a door, and on the other side are rays of sunshine, singing birds, water fountains and the sound of violins playing.
I’m telling you from our experience working with hundreds of major gift officers – this is the difference a qualified portfolio can make.
Knowing you now have a full portfolio of donors who actually want to relate to you, will take your phone call, will return your messages, and will sit down with you face-to-face – it’s a completely different place to work from.
If right now you’re working a portfolio of unqualified donors, you have a chance to turn things around. Take the time to do major gifts right.
PS — Again, here is the link to download our white paper to guide you through this important process.
This post originally appeared on the Passionate Giving Blog on January 18, 2019.
Well … this sounds good. But, the reality is very much in line with what you’ve outlined about getting a list of 500 folks and being asked to qualify and raise significant funds.
I’ve never received a qualified portfolio in any institution I’ve worked for … they’re all the same. You get brought on with promises of a functioning shop, only to realize that you need to sift through 2,000 names, if you’re lucky (a more accurate number in a university setting is 5k to 10k), and magically infer which of these will sustain a portfolio. Most of which haven’t been engaged in years.
The only person responsible for qualifying and building relationships is you.
So, if I were ever given a 150 names to work with, your point is valid … though, that’s a bit of a dream world.
Thank you for your reply John. It is definitely challenging to go into an environment where there are huge, unruly caseloads, especially if you were promised a different situation during the interview process. It is somewhat rare to come into a position and receive a fully qualified caseload of 150 donors. This is often a process we work with fundraisers on once they’re on board. If they’re inheriting a caseload, we often recommend reviewing to ensure all donors meet the criteria as a first layer. Then identify the best prospects for a qualification pool (450 if no one on the caseload is qualified). Once you have that, then you can begin the 7-step qualification process to get to 150 donors. It takes a lot of work on your part, but is well worth it.