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A New Major Gifts Portfolio Doesn’t Need to Mean Major Headaches

A New Major Gifts Portfolio Doesn’t Need to Mean Major Headaches

By Derek Rogers

It’s happened to all of us – suddenly you’re responsible for a new major giving portfolio! It can happen when your colleague resigns unexpectedly or when you start a new job. With the average fundraiser staying on the job 16 months or less, it’s more and more likely that you’ll face the daunting task of managing a new portfolio of dozens to hundreds of individuals you don’t know.

Where do you begin? Here are 5 questions to ask yourself, and some accompanying suggestions to help you navigate and prioritize your new portfolio:

1.     Who are the donors who gave most recently?

Focus your initial portfolio management efforts on donors who gave most recently. A personalized thank you call, email, or handwritten note are classic stewardship practices, but also an important way to introduce yourself and open the door to getting to know current supporters better.

In your outreach, offer to meet them in-person or by phone to formally introduce yourself, learn more about their interest in your mission, and create a personal connection. You may even ask them about their past giving experience with the organization, so you can gain insights into what has or hasn’t worked well in the past. 

2.     Which individuals are slated for an ask in the next three months?

Analyze your portfolio to determine who the former portfolio manager planned to solicit within the next three months. Pore over these prospects with your Chief Executive Officer, Chief Development Officer, board members, Development Committee members, or other key stakeholders who have relationships with the prospects. They can help you to determine the most appropriate path to an ask, and whether the 3-month timeline is still realistic. Don’t be surprised if some of these prospects need additional cultivation and relationship-building before an ask can be made.

3.     Are there pending asks requiring follow up?

Review your portfolio to determine which prospects were asked, but did not formally pledge or decline. You may have many pending asks, depending on the size of your portfolio. Prioritize your follow-up by identifying prospects who were asked most recently, have the highest probability of giving, and have the highest capacity. Online tools like iWavecan assist you in determining a prospect’s net worth. Follow up with each prospect with a friendly introduction and an offer to meet with them to discuss their proposal or ask.

4.     Who are your largest donors from the past 2-3 years? Who has given annually for the past 2-3 years?

Identify donors who give the largest gifts, as well as those who give on a regular basis or have given consistently for the past few years. Give them a call or send them a handwritten note to thank them for their ongoing support and learn more about their interest in your mission. Ask probing questions about their giving experience, and ask them for their thoughts on your organization’s latest work and milestones. Through this stewardship, you can gather insights about how to appropriately cultivate these donors for a renewed or upgraded gift in the future.

5.     Are there donors who require serious attention or had a negative giving experience?

Partner with your Chief Executive Officer and development team to identify donors who may require personal outreach to remedy a negative giving experience or deteriorating relationship with your organization. Leverage your newness to the situation by serving as a sounding board for the donor at an in-person meeting. Create a comfortable setting for the donor to express their dissatisfaction, and use their feedback to identify a path to recover the relationship, and hopefully renew their support in the future.

While it can seem overwhelming at first, receiving a portfolio of new donors doesn’t have to be when you ask yourself these 5 key questions. It is possible to take on your new portfolio strategically and intentionally. Good luck!

Derek John Rogers is a Senior Associate Director at Orr Associates, Inc. (OAI). OAI leverages top talent and innovative technologies to help nonprofits grow and diversify revenue.

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