It has become clear to me after working with many dozens of organizations and training on building major donor portfolios, that the word “portfolio” means many different things to advancement professionals. I will try and capture the range of definitions being applied in the field.
- Donors who have rated as having major giving potential.
- Donors who have rated as having major giving potential, some have had discovery visits and many have not.
- Donors who have rated as having major giving potential, have been cultivated and are ready to be asked for a gift within the next 6-8 months.
- Donors who have rated as having major giving potential, have been cultivated to varying degrees, and with many who will not be ready to be asked for at least a year and some who are ready to be asked for a gift within the next 6-8 months.
- Donors and non-donors (prospects) who have or have not rated as having major giving potential, some have had discovery visits and many have not.
- Donors and non-donors (prospects) who have rated as having major giving potential, many of whom have not been contacted by a gift officer.
On and on and on…
Most of the time when I ask a group of gift officers from the same shop how they define a portfolio and what the rules are for adding or removing a person to your portfolio, I get blank faces or many different answers.
Needless to say I have my opinion and protocols on the definition and rules around a major donor portfolio. At the very least, your shop needs to write down the definition for your situation and the rules governing who is added and who is removed from a portfolio, and the ideal size of portfolios. Then make sure everyone knows the definition and rules.
My Portfolio Definition
In broad strokes, major donor portfolios should not exceed 35 people who are rated as having major gift potential; discovery visits have been made; interest in supporting your organization has been established or inferred; and, it is reasonable to expect gift readiness after executing a cultivation plan within 6-10 months.
Apart from the portfolio is what I call the “on deck circle”. These are people who are being researched, screened with stakeholders and who get queued up for a discovery visit. They are also being “kept warm” with more personal communications, high touch mail solicitation and invitations to events.
- Based on the nature of your donor file and your organization’s needs, define and document the characteristics of a major donor portfolio.
- Less is more in the case of portfolio size. You cannot be effective building relationships and become gift-ready with 100+ people in your portfolio.
- Establish an onboarding process for new members of your advancement team so everyone plays by the same rules.
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