Focus on the Right Donors With a Tiered Caseload
Do you remember those ball pits at some fast-food restaurants? Imagine if one of those containers burst open, and you had to race around trying to catch as many of the balls as possible. It would be really stressful, chaotic and not very strategic.
That’s what it feels like to not have a tiered caseload. Tiering your caseload is a strategy that organizes your caseload so that you can create a strategic, meaningful plan for every donor while focusing your time and energy on the right donors. This also ensures each donor is providing a net revenue to your organization.
Why a Tiered Caseload Is Valuable
There’s a dual purpose in fundraising that must be in balance. Both of these are of critical importance to the success of your fundraising program.
- Help your donor fulfill their philanthropic passions and interests.
- Raise net revenue for your organization.
In order to accomplish the second part of this purpose, you need to spend the appropriate amount of time with each donor on your caseload.
Remember, you are an economic cost to your organization. Said another way, you cost your organization money. That means there is a cost associated with your time. So, you have to use your time wisely.
Now, I recognize that this may all sound a bit transactional and money-focused, but the reality is that a lack of focus or structure will keep you stuck in a transactional mindset with your donors. You’ll also be exhausted and feel overwhelmed because you won’t know where to focus and will feel pulled in a million directions. This is a recipe for burnout.
To truly have transformational relationships with your donors, you need to have space and energy to create a strategic plan for each individual donor that is aligned with their interests, inclination toward your mission and capacity. If you don’t, you’ll just be chasing after tasks and actions that aren’t moving your donor relationships forward in a meaningful way.
How Create a Tiered Caseload
I’m going to walk you through how to approach this for a major gifts caseload specifically, but I recommend a similar strategy for mid-level and planned giving caseloads.
When you’re setting tiers, there are a few things that you need to assess:
- Inclination. This is how much the donor has actually given. This is, of course, a great indication of many things, like the donor’s passion for your organization, capacity, etc.
- Capacity information. In tandem with inclination, review any information you have about the donor’s capacity. Capacity could be a wealth rating, the largest gift the donor’s ever given or what the donor has given in the last 18 to 24 months.
- Connection. Consider how deep the donor’s connection is to your organization. Are they a board member or volunteer? Were they incredibly enthusiastic in the qualification process?
All of these factors need to be considered together to determine the right tier. And it’s important to remember that tiers are fluid. They’re mobile. If you learn something new, you absolutely can move a donor into a different tier. But you need to maintain the same general structure and size of each tier.
So, what is the right size for each tier?
This is a very generalized spread. Your caseload will not have even numbers like this, but this gives you an idea of how the tiers are organized.
As you can see, your tier A group is very small. But, it’s where the vast majority of your effort goes. That time is largely spent in strategy and messaging because you’re sending personal and very specific communication to these donors. These are the donors who will be your transformational givers, so this is time well spent.
Tier B is going to include a decent number of donors, but is not as small and focused as tier A. Here you’re still doing very personal, strategic moves, with the intention of moving these donors to a higher level of connection and giving to your organization.
Tier C is where the majority of your caseload donors will be assigned. You’re still doing strategic touch points, but they’re a bit less personal. In major gifts, none of your communication should be generic, but the level of strategy and tactics will shift as you move among tiers.
All of your donors have value, and it’s imperative not to forget any of your donors. You also need to ensure you have the right structure that will help you focus your time and energy wisely so you can make the biggest impact on your donor relationships and for your organization’s mission.
By tiering your caseload, you’ll be able to meaningfully connect with your donors on a deeper level, connect with your transformational givers and gain better balance in your work.
Jeff Schreifels is the principal owner of Veritus Group — an agency that partners with nonprofits to create, build and manage mid-level fundraising, major gifts and planned giving programs. In his 32-plus year career, Jeff has worked with hundreds of nonprofits, helping to raise more than $400 million in revenue.