How to Transition a Mid-Level Donor to a Major Gift Officer
How do you take a donor that a mid-level gift officer has been working with and hand them over to a major gift officer? Our team at Veritus gets this question all the time because, not only do we help build and manage major gift programs, we also do the same with mid-level programs. Before I get into how do make this transition, let me talk about why a good mid-level donor program is so helpful to major gifts:
- More Personal Attention. A mid-level program helps donors get “used to” more personal attention from your organization—this helps them realize they have moved from a mass communication effort from your organization to a more one to one relationship. And for the major gift officer, more personal attention means there will be more information about a donor that she can use to facilitate the relationship.
- Qualified Donors—for the major gift team, the best part of a mid-level program is that you are qualifying a donor before moving to major gifts. In most cases where a nonprofit does not have a mid-level program, it’s the major gift officer who has to qualify and also cultivate their current caseload. That is not easy, as you know. Having qualified donors move into a major gift portfolio is one of the best things you can do for your major gift officer.
Now, before a transition takes place, I want to give you a list of indicators or triggers for the mid-level officer to be aware of to know when it’s probably a good time to transition them. There are three overall indicators for the mid-level donor representative: Giving, Life and Interests Indicators:
- Made a significantly higher gift than in the past
- Just made first gift of ($5,000, $10,000 or higher—depending on set level)
- More frequent large gifts (e.g. $1,000 every other week or monthly)
- Made a gift out of stock
- Mentions they give substantially to another nonprofit
- Have an IRA they want to give charitable gifts from
- Mentions they have a donor-advised fund of use a community foundation for their charitable giving
- Mentions they have the organization in their will
- Notice they have been giving for 10+ years consecutively
- Mentions ownership of multiple homes (shore, mountains, etc.)
- Mentions they are business owners/large number of employees
- Mentions they travel extensively or talk about recent trips/cruises, etc.
- Mentions they are thinking about selling real estate or other large items such as a boat as they are no longer using them
- Have established a trust for their children or grandchildren
- Getting ready to retire
- Thinking about selling their business.
- Mentions they are members of a culturally elite group or have season tickets to the opera, orchestra, etc.
- Learn the donor holds a very high level job in a Fortune 500 company
- Mentions a family member or close friend is on the national board for the organization
- Donor expresses an interest in visiting a program or service site
- Donor expresses interest in volunteering
- Mentions they have attended events to support the organization
- Mentions they have served on advisory, local, or national boards for the organization in the past
These are all potential indicators that the donor is ready to transition to a major gift officer.
Now, here are the steps to transition a mid-level donor to a major gift officer. First, there are two types of transitions: 1) The mid-level rep does not have a necessarily strong tie or relationship to the donor, and 2) the mid-level rep has a strong relationship with the donor.
For a mid-level rep that does not have a strong relationship with the donor we recommend that the major gift officer send a letter to the donor introducing themselves and explaining that they are their new personal representative of the organization and is their main contact. They will say they’re following up with a phone call and would love to meet with them in the near future.
For donors that have a strong relationship with the mid-level officer we recommend the following:
- Have the mid-level rep send an email or letter to the donor explaining that a new representative will be their new point of contact for the organization. That the donor will be in good hands with the major gift officer, and they will be able to give them more personal attention and insight to the programs of the organization. In that letter, tell the donor you would like to introduce the major gift officer to her in a phone call (or it could be over email).
- Phone call. Here, the mid-level rep will introduce the major gift officer to the donor. The purpose is to help transition the relationship and help the donor get comfortable with their new contact. In that phone call the major gift officer should try and schedule a face-to-face meeting.
- Referring back to the previous rep. During the course of the transition, it’s always a good idea for the major gift officer to refer back to the donor’s previous relationship with the other rep. For example, “Hi [donor], I was just talking to [mid-level rep] about how committed you are with our mission and she told me a story about how you…” This just gives the donor a level of comfort that you are all one team and that the donor is not just being passed around the organization.
Transitioning a qualified donor into a major gift officers portfolio with ease is one of the best things you can do for the major gift program, the organization… and the donor!
Anything you can do to keep the pipeline to major gifts free and clear of any clogs is your goal. Following these steps will help tremendously.
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.