The Fundraising Effectiveness Report from Q4 of 2022 shows a decline from 2021’s already-disappointing donor retention rates.
INVOLVE ALL DEPARTMENTS—NOT JUST DEVELOPMENT
A good development director or major gift officer is also a connector who’s looking at who in the organization can add a meaningful layer to a donor relationship. Today’s donors are craving access, so allowing them to hear first-hand from a CEO, program officer, or executive director brings meaning. For example, if a donor’s passion is ending homelessness and you’ve just released a report about the connection between homelessness and affordable housing in your community, set up a meeting between the donor and the author of the report.
ADDRESS MAJOR GIFT PORTFOLIOS SIZE AND MGO TRAINING
Consider shrinking portfolios sizes so MGOs can focus on quality interactions. The average major gift officer should have a portfolio of between 100 and 150 and expect an 8 to 10 percent yield from those prospects. A VP of advancement or director of development should also maintain a portfolio of the top prospects; the size of their portfolio should be between 50 and 75. Of these prospective donors:
• 25 percent should be in the qualification phase.
• 25 percent should be in the early phases of cultivation.
• 25 percent should be in the late phase of cultivation/solicitation phase.
• 25 percent should be in the stewardship phase.
On average, it should take nine to 18 months to close a major gift. If we’re doing our jobs well, the old two-year standard becomes outdated.
THE REWARD IS WORTH THE EFFORT
As stewards of the American tradition of philanthropy, the responsibility to cultivate generosity falls to each of us. We must mentor our newer staff in the ways of effective relationship-building. We must create work environments that encourage longevity not turnover.
True major gift fundraising is intentional. It takes time, but the reward is worth the effort. Major donors are those donors who will be there in a crisis. They are your campaign’s lead donors. They are your advocates and your ambassadors. Treat them like investors, and they will be by your side through the highs and the lows.
About the Author:
Jessica Browning, principal and executive vice president of the Winkler Group, has 30 years of nonprofit experience. Her specialty is donor communications. She holds a B.A. from Duke University and an M.A. and M.B.A. from the College of William and Mary.
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