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Justifying the Hire of Another Gift Officer

tree of money


I get this question often…when is the right time to hire another gift officer? Perhaps a better question is how do I justify hiring another gift officer so I can get the position in the budget?

You and your CFO/CEO will need some idea about the return on the investment (ROI) and the time line for it. The rule of thumb I have often heard is that a gift officer “should” return 4-5 times his/her salary inside of a year. To me this ratio is often misguided on both the low end and the high end.

Gift officers are not an island unto themselves. They need donor candidates – cold, warm and hot. If your organization is short on donor candidate pipeline you will need to adjust your expectation about ROI. Be clear if the gift officer is being hired to generate/find candidates or to work an identified and more mature candidate pool.

Fundamentally, though, it is about the numbers. I suggest you go through the following exercise to determine if you have a sound argument for bringing on an additional gift officer.

1. Determine the philanthropic capacity of your current donor candidate pipeline. Do this using electronic wealth research (as imperfect as this is) and street research (usually more illuminating). If you have an estimated capacity range then use the midline.

2. Break your pipeline down into the quarters when you think gifts will close and the expected value of those gifts. Go out 18 months (6 quarters). You can do this retrospectively as well to get actual ratios on which to base your predictions. (To receive Copley Raff’s exclusive tool to help you determine how much to ask for a multi-year pledge from your major donors, write to with your request. This tool has been validated by more than 200 advancement officers and is the only tool of its kind available.)

3. Take the ratio of estimated total gifts / philanthropic capacity for each quarter. Remember, the estimated gift total is not what you are asking for it is what you think the gift will be.

4. Now look at what you are raising from major gifts (whatever that threshold is for your organization-$1000, $5,000, $50,000) and see if you are able to even justify your current staffing profile. If so…

5. Determine the philanthropic capacity of your current unassigned donor candidates and how and why you anticipate pipeline growth, and apply the ratio in #3, quarterly as in #2 beginning at the start of the new gift officer’s tenure. Be sure to provide for adequate ramp up time for the newbie.

For example:

Now you can provide justification for hiring an addition gift officer, or demonstrate that your current production may need improvement. In either case, you will show your management chops and be able to stand your ground with your position.

Your takes:

1. Gather all the empirical data you can before making key financial decisions.

2. Be more concerned with internal benchmarksfactoring your particular circumstances and history, rather than with ‘industry” rules of thumb.

3. Feel confident with your recommendations because they are based in reasonable data and projections.

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The next PLAN-MGO session is April 8-11, 2016.