The Mid Year Major Gift Check List Series of 5: #2 – Which Donors Require More Of Your Time?

It’s really hard for me to believe that a seasoned major gift professional will, in a moment of major gift suicide, tell his team to just “mail the caseload an ask!”

And yet, it happens all the time.

And when it does I just hold my head in utter despair wondering what got into this good professional’s head.  How did he get off track?  What caused him to depart from what he KNOWS works and just do the direct marketing thing with his donors and the donors of his team?

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit, and it seems to me that some of the reasons major gift managers and MGOs themselves get off track on this point are:

  1. They really haven’t been managing the donors on their list as individual persons – so they find it easy and expedient to just “mail them”.
  2. They have forgotten that relationship building takes time and, in an act of impatience, they just treat the whole caseload or a group of donors on it as a segment to talk to.
  3. They don’t know what to do with their donors so they revert back to a direct marketing strategy which they know won’t work but hold out hope that it does.
  4. They have forgotten that all their donors are different – and, therefore, they require individual customized attention.

Whatever the reason(s), this whole business of just approaching each donor on the caseload in the same way is absolute craziness and, if you are doing it, it is going to kill you and your career.  Why?  Because you can’t possibly be successful in major gifts until you finally give yourself to the principle that a donor is a unique individual with special and singularly individual characteristics, motivations and interests.

So, theoretically, if you intimately knew each of the donors on your caseload, you would be able to place them into a value hierarchy from 1 to 150, spending proportionately more time, energy and thought with the donors at the top of the list and progressively less nearing the bottom.

That is the theory – not all donors are the same.  They differ in potential and value.  Therefore, you must have a value hierarchy for your caseload.

But, here’s the problem.  Unless you have been with your entire caseload for several years and gotten to know each donor intimately, you can’t practically place each individual in a hierarchy of value – it just can’t be done.

Which is why, until you get to that point of knowledge and experience, you must do the next best thing:  classify your donors (tier them) into at least three groups – high value, medium value, lower value.  Some MGO’s rate their donors A, B, C or 1, 2, 3 and that is probably the best way to go at it.

Here is why I am bringing this up right now in this list of mid-year reminders to check:

You need to spend your time very wisely in the next few months leading up to the fourth quarter of the calendar year.  And spending your time wisely means focusing more on your higher value donors.

So, have you rated or tiered the donors on your caseload?  If not, get busy so you can know where you are going in terms of moves management plans with them.  You cannot afford to treat all the donors on your caseload equally.  Nope.  Don’t do it.

Stop this week and do this work.  It will be some of the best planning you have done.  And, it will lead you to discern WHO to spend your time with in the coming months.

There is nothing better than talking to the right donor!



About Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry

Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry have over 55 years of experience fundraising for non-profits. Richard Perry was co-owner of Domain Group until 2005. Jeff Schreifels was a Senior Strategist for Domain Group for 12 years. They came together a few years ago to start Veritus Group, a full-service major gift fundraising agency. Veritus Group has a unique, data-driven approach unlike any agency focused on major gifts. Jeff and Richard are passionate about their work, passionate about life and hopes this blog will provide you with insights and tangible benefits for you and your work. Thank you for reading!
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