Richard and I work with a lot of Major Gift Officers. We love them. We love working with them. We think they have one of the greatest jobs ever.
But, if left to their own devices, they would have 1,000 donors on their caseload, (which, by the way, is literally impossible to cultivate) and go down in flames trying to make it work.
Am I right, all you Major Gift Officers?
I think there are a few reasons (little demons) why MGO’s want so many donors on their caseload.
- They love people so much that the more they meet the happier they are. MGO’s think they can have hundreds of relationships all going at the same time…”the more the merrier.”
- It’s hard for an MGO to let go of a relationship, even when the donor has little or no intention to give. I get it. Some of you get really emotionally attached to your donors and even if they don’t have the capacity to give, you still want to maintain the relationship.
- It looks good for your overall revenue goals.
Let me try to address these one by one. First, great MGO’s are usually people who love meeting people and just can’t get enough of the stimulation they receive from making connections with others. I happen to be like this myself. The problem is that to be effective in major gift fundraising you have to build, nurture and grow relationships with people. You have to go deep. You simply cannot do that with hundreds of donors.
Secondly, while I understand that letting go of a donor can be emotionally difficult for you, you are thinking more about your personal needs than your organization. Richard has talked about this many times, but there is an economic reality that you have to understand. For every donor you’re spending time with who doesn’t have capacity to give, you’re not allowing a donor who DOES have capacity to have a relationship with your organization. That equals LOST revenue.
Remember, you are not best friends with your donors. You are representing your organization to your donors.
Finally, regarding revenue goals, this one gets me really riled up. If you’re keeping donors on your caseload just because they help make your overall numbers look good, then your manager is not evaluating you correctly. You should be evaluated on gifts that come in through proposals or direct asks that you have with your caseload. All other gifts that come in through white mail, direct mail or in any other way, you should be given “soft-credit” for. This means that if you are cultivating these donors, and a donor gives, but not as a direct result of your actions, you will still get acknowledged, but not receive sole credit for the gift.
Your performance should be evaluated overwhelmingly on your direct asks and proposals. So, the idea of keeping a bunch of donors on your file because you get credit for that revenue is totally counterproductive to managing a caseload based on quality.
So, what does quality mean?
Here is a guide. It’s not set in stone, but this is what we use:
- No more than 150 donors per caseload. It can be less, based on the overall caseload value, meaning, how much revenue is expected from your caseload and what is the overall capacity. I have some MGO’s who have only 75 donors, but the value is over $5,000,000 in total revenue. This leads to the second point,
- ROI. We’ve talked about this before, but in the beginning stages of development, we want to see a 4:1 to 6:1 ROI. Then, as your caseload develops, we want to move that to a 7:1 to 10:1 ROI. See our post on this if you need more information.
- Tier your donors: A,B,and C levels. The reason for doing this is that it allows you and your manager to know where you should spend the majority of your time. It also allows you to evaluate whether a new donor is worth replacing a C level donor on your current caseload.
This little guide can help you significantly in trying to decipher on whom to concentrate your time and energy. And that is the big point of this whole post. Quality time spent on a few donors is much more effective than spreading yourself too thin and not being able to adequately nurture a relationship with a donor who has a passion for your organization.
Don’t be tempted by those three little “demons” swirling around in your head. The quality of your relationships is key!