Who Should Be on My Caseload?
The subject of caseload composition is a hotly debated topic in major-gifts circles, just like the subject of how many donors should even be on a caseload. What kind of donors should be on my caseload? I'll answer that in a second.
Jeff and I are routinely asked how many qualified donors should be on a major-gifts officer (MGO) caseload. The answer is 150. Any major-gifts caseload should not have more than 150 qualified donors on it. That's the max. You could have less, but not more.
By qualified, we mean the MGO has actually contacted the donor and become convinced that the donor wants to relate to the MGO/organization in a more personal way. Most major-gifts programs do not do this, and it is the core reason for their failure.
But, once you get this straight, then the question of caseload composition comes up. That is, what kinds of donors should be on your caseload? By kinds I do not mean gender, age, ethnicity, political or religious leaning, etc. By kinds, I mean a selection process that takes two factors into account: inclination and capacity.
Inclination means that the donor has actually given recently. (If the donor hasn't, why are you engaged with her?) This is basic! Yet I often get into discussions with MGOs and managers about why Mr. Smith or Mrs. Jones, who hasn't given for three years, is still a really good prospect! Even better than the 56 other donors who have given sizable gifts in the last 12 months. This discussion blows my mind. What are these MGOs and managers thinking?
Capacity means the financial ability of the donor to give.
So, if you put these two things together, which is more valuable?
- A donor who has a net worth of $150 million and gave you $100 three years ago.
- A donor who is REALLY influential in the community and has a lot of connections and is interested in your cause.
- A donor who has a net worth of $10 million and gave you $5,000 three months ago.
I hope you picked the $10 million dollar net worth donor. Why? Because that donor is INCLINED to give to you. She is engaged. She is interested. She is with you.
The "really influential" donor hasn't given you a penny. Oh yeah, I know. This donor says he's interested, and he DOES know a lot of people. Well, ask him for a gift and see where it goes. Jeff and I have heard this "let's go after the guy who knows everyone" thing more times than we can count.
But here's the problem: YOU only have so much time. You need to use that time to develop economic value for your organization. Use it to nurture and coddle the "influential person," and be prepared to not meet your goals. Believe me. This happens way too often. Some bureaucrat in the organization gets fixed on the person she just met at the Rotary Club, and WHAM!, the MGO immediately has a new assignment. This is really irritating and a waste of time and labor. But I digress.
OK, let's say that you have your ability to select donors for your caseload all sharpened and on point. Now the question is this: "If I am using an inclination/capacity criteria to select donors for my caseload, and I am qualifying them properly, then how should I think about who is on my caseload, what value I should expect from them and how much of my labor should I invest?"
What we think about this is conceptually set forth in the following graph at right.
Let me walk you through this quickly.
If you have 150 qualified donors, in our experience, there should be three donor quality tiers:
- The A donors who are your top-tier, high-capacity, high-inclination donors. They contribute above average gifts and make up almost half of the dollar value of your caseload. We think this group should be the smallest group of donors on your caseload, somewhere between 10 percent to 15 percent, and contribute almost half of the total caseload value.
- The B donors are that group of donors who represent the medium contribution of your caseload. In the example above, they are the $5,000 giver. There are more of them — 40 percent to 50 percent — and they contribute over a third of the caseload value.
- The C donors are that group of donors who are the low end of your caseload contributing the lowest average amounts.
Here are the big points of this chart:
- You should have a top-tier group of donors who you have identified as having the inclination and capacity to give five-, six- and seven-figure gifts to your organization. Make it a priority to figure out who these folks are. And spend a greater portion of your time with them.
- You should have two levels of donors below that top tier. Those who have promise to move up into the top tier, the B donors, and those who don't, the C donors.
- Once you have figured this out, manage your time and attention to fit this reality.
This is really all back to that simple concept we all have heard over and over again: the 80/20 rule which says the majority of the result comes from the minority of the effort. Or the majority of the revenue comes from the minority of the donors.
If you take nothing but one thing from this post let it be this: You MUST tier your caseload in some high- to low-value categories. And you must then let that tiering drive your planning and approach to those donors and how you use your time. If you don't do this you will wander; you will be out of focus; you will be driven by personal preference and emotion vs. thoughtfulness; and you will not achieve what you want. And, to me, that is tragic.
Don't let it happen.
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.