Know When the Development Office Has It Wrong
We have been said it all along and now others are saying it: Things are not right in the development function of many nonprofits. Education Dive’s Autumn Arnett wrote:
“A recent survey of university gift officers, conducted by Ruffalo Noel, Levitz, found a majority of gift officers feel they are not efficiently using their time to get the maximum impact and more dollars to campus. According to the survey, administrative tasks and bad tracking data are prohibiting officers from spending time meeting with prospective donors to close deals — respondents said they only get to visit 52% of their prospect pool each year, leaving money on the table every cycle.”
Then she gave two reasons for lack of success.
1. Poorly managing gift officers’ time. Many gift officers say they are spending too much time scheduling meetings and not enough time actually meeting. Simply having a scheduler or assistant to handle such administrative tasks would make a huge difference, they say. Additionally, internal issues and meetings and distractions take away from valuable face time with donors — 55% said they aren’t spending enough time on solicitation and nearly 44% said they don’t spend enough time managing the donor relationships.
2. Focusing on the wrong things. Activity metrics versus success metrics are also detrimental to the overall cause of boosting the bottom line. In many cases, respondents of the Ruffalo Noel, Levitz survey said their performance was evaluated on volume, meaning officers were rewarded for scheduling more meetings, regardless of closure rates. Because of this need to pad their activity logs, only half of their top donors are getting visits each year. Additionally:
“Not only that, but wealth ratings, which 86% of gift officers are using, are not necessarily good indicators of a person’s likelihood to give, respondents say. Only 68% use propensity ratings, which are supposed to be more predictive, meaning, as one respondent put it, ‘We spend too much time chasing rabbits that may not result in much.’”
Jeff Schreifels and I have talked, quite a bit, about both of these areas and I bring it up again to make this point: More of your success in major gifts depends on what you do and less on what the donor does.
The donors are in your donor file. And many of them have the inclination and ability to give. But many don’t. So how you use your time to find, nurture and cultivate them is a key element to your success.
Here’s the key:
“‘What we forget is that relationship-building is a science,” said Brian Gawor, Ruffalo Noel, Levitz’s vice president of research. “There’s hoards of data available, but it can’t be a model where you apply the same model to everyone.’ Instead, he said, finding ways of personal engagement via a connection to personal stories, experiences and interests — determining where people want to give and why — promotes better success.”
It comes back to passions and interests. I know Schreifels and I are constantly talking about this. Sorry. But we have to do it because it is not sinking in.
You must figure out what your donor’s interests and passions are. And then you must serve those interests and passions outrageously.
You may have voices around you telling you to focus on wealth ratings and asset information. Note the previous statement about wealth ratings, which are not always accurate and certainly do not tell you if a donor will give. I had one situation where a manager of major gifts was insisting his major gifts officer (MGO) visit a high-net-worth person who had never given instead of talking to the current donors on file who can give substantially. I don’t understand this.
Amid all of this noise, let’s keep this simple.
A donor who has a passion to get something good done gives. Uncover the fact that the donor has given a current cumulative gift higher than the average donor on your file. Stop here. Pay attention to these two data points: current gift and cumulatively higher than your average donor.
These are critical indicators of donor inclination. Pay attention to that.
Now, move to information on capacity and place the donors you have in a hierarchy of inclination (and history of giving, which is past inclination) and capacity — in that order.
Then start uncovering passions and interests and serving the donors on your caseload paying close attention to who is engaging with you at a greater level. Do not get sidetracked by capacity at this point. Someone might say: “Hey, look at those high-capacity people on your caseload. Go after them. They will give more.” Not necessarily true. The high-inclination donors, where you have a perfect match of your ask to their interests and passions, will give the most. Some of them will be high capacity.
Stay focused on the right things. A leader, manager or another MGO may assert that the amount of money a donor has is the key metric to drive whether you pay attention to them. Ignore that.
Instead pay attention to inclination (past and present) and then pay attention to connectivity. Will the donor actually connect with you when you present the donor with an unmet need that matches her passions and interests? Mix into your decision capacity. You must always look at capacity, but don’t let it become the shiny object that distracts you.
These are the three indicators you need to watch, with inclination and connectivity telling you the state of the donor’s mind and heart, and capacity telling you the state of the donor’s ability.
If you’re hanging with Richard it won’t be long before you’ll be laughing.
He always finds something funny in everything. But when the conversation is about people, their money and giving, you’ll find a deeply caring counselor who helps donors fulfill their passions and interests. Richard believes that successful major-gift fundraising is not fundamentally about securing revenue for good causes. Instead it is about helping donors express who they are through their giving. The Connections blog will provide practical information on how to do this successfully. Richard has more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership and fundraising experience, and is founding partner of the Veritus Group.