Over the next four days you’re going to get some great material–frameworks, processes, systems–the foundational pieces to any successful major gifts program.
Now, don’t get me wrong, major gifts fundraising is more art than science. And great MGOs do make it look easy. But, as always, there’s more than meets the eye.
The best MGOs I know are disciplined, methodical, and use proven systems to put themselves in a position to succeed. Over and over again.
In other words, the science enables the art.
So, let’s talk systems.
The first topic we’re going to touch on is Portfolio Management.
A portfolio is the group of donors that a Major Gifts Officer is responsible for. At some organizations, it’s called a case load.
Don’t have portfolios at your organization? That’s fine. For the purposes of this exercise just use any group good donors that you think could be come better donors with the right kind of attention.
Now I want to walk you through an important reframe. Your portfolio isn’t just a group of prospects or a list of names.
Your portfolio is a major gifts pipeline.
Thinking about it as a pipeline will allow you to manage it as a pipeline and, ultimately, maximize the number of major gifts you receive.
Here’s how we get from portfolio to pipeline…
You’re probably already familiar with the fundraising cycle:
Yes, it’s an oversimplification. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule. But the fundraising cycle is a useful framework for thinking about major gifts work. And smart people are always able to apply principles and frameworks to their unique situations.
Now, take the fundraising cycle and reconfigure it as a linear process…
…and you’ve got a pipeline. Take a look:
The output you’re hoping for is, of course, major gifts.
The input is identified prospects.
And in the middle: relationship-building and, eventually, solicitation.
Adopting the pipeline framework will help you visualize your portfolio in a new and powerful way. It will help you manage your portfolio in a more opportunistic way as well. I use it to keep my team on track and project future major gifts revenue.
Try this exercise. Go through your portfolio and assign every donor or prospect a stage according to the fundraising cycle. Add up the number of prospects you have at each stage and then plot them out along a pipeline. This will give you a visual representation of your portfolio as a pipeline.
Do you have an even distribution of donors across the pipe? Or do you have clumps in certain areas?
For example, if you have a lot of prospects in the “qualification” stage, but relatively few in “cultivation,” it’s time to visit with them so you can learn about their capacity and inclination.
Similarly, if you have a bunch of donors in cultivation, but few in solicitation, it’s time to present your donors with compelling giving opportunities–get some proposals in front of them!
Analyze before you mobilize. Understand your portfolio before taking action. That way you’ll know where to focus your efforts so you can maximize your portfolio’s major gifts potential.