For many major gift officers, summer is the opportunity to take stock of the success and challenges of the previous fiscal year and make resolutions for the new year. The most successful gift officers embrace prospect planning to ensure they are getting out of the office to find, cultivate and solicit the best prospects. If you are at your desk more than you are out, you are missing opportunities. Meetings, database entry deadlines, reports, and proposal writing can tie you down to your desk, preventing you from your primary responsibility of engaging prospects and donors in major gift conversations.
Here are five suggestions to help you focus your work to become a more efficient, effective, and productive major gifts officer.
1. Create a personal annual development plan that includes both fiscal-year fundraising goals and engagement goals. Include a projection of total dollars raised, face to-face visits completed, and number of proposals submitted and closed. Also include a total number of specific solicitations projected by each quarter over a 12-month period to demonstrate a viable pipeline of prospects, and outline specific cultivation and stewardship events and activities. Written plans are effective tools because they clarify and focus thinking, establish context and framework for action, become the basis for year-over-year performance planning, empower major gift officers to do their best work, and ensure accountability.
2. Identify your top 10-25 prospects in your portfolio. Who has the highest capability and probability to donate a major gift to your organization? Your top prospects should include a balance of constituents at all stages of qualification, cultivation, and solicitation. Focus your prospect engagement work by fiscal year quarter to ensure that you are giving yourself specific targeted dates for moving towards a gift solicitation and close.
3. Develop strategies for each of your top 10-25 prospects. Develop written strategies for each of your top prospects so you have the roadmap of their engagement over the next year. Identify specific persons to be involved in each task, including internal partners and external volunteers. Include and track specific target dates for each action. Consistent and strategic engagement deepens the relationship between you and the prospect and the prospect and the organization – and raises more money faster and more efficiently and effectively.
4. Reserve several days a month (or more) on your calendar for prospect meetings and/or development trips. Carving out time on your calendar will help you hold yourself accountable for getting out of the office for prospect/donor meetings. Discipline in holding those dates for prospect meetings is essential to prevent the creep of office tasks taking over your calendar and keeping you behind your desk. Before you know it, critical time will have passed and you may not have had face-to-face meetings with your most important prospects. Remember that prospects very often have multiple philanthropic interests. Keeping in touch not only builds relationships with them for your organization, but it lets them know how important they are to you.
5. Add discovery/qualification prospects to your call lists routinely. It is critical to add newly identified major gift prospects to your pipeline. High-value, high-inclination prospects may be flying under the radar and are a missed opportunity if not cultivated. Engaging new prospects can also be energizing for a gift officer: helping prospects learn more about how their support can help impact your organization while meeting their philanthropic goals can help invigorate your work and give you a refreshed focus on prospect engagement.
Now is the time to commit to managing your portfolio to raise important and impactful gifts for your organization. moss+ross has worked with many clients to provide tailored major gift training and coaching that has resulted in measurable improved major gift fundraising. To learn more, contact moss+ross.
Elizabeth Hopkins is a Senior Associate with moss+ross.