Encouraging major gift officers to jump into the deep end of the donor pool and start having conversations with such prospects without first making sure they know how to swim can be a colossal mistake. You need to make sure your major gift officers know exactly what they’re getting into and how connected these potential donors are to your organization. All of this should happen before your major gift officer ever meets with a potential major donor.
At some point early on in the planning process, there must be a realistic intersection between the financial goals of the organization and the short-term philanthropic potential of your base of prospective major gift donors.
The 6 Key Stages of Major Donor Development
To determine whether you can realistically achieve these targets requires an assessment of your donor prospect pool. This normally requires input from several members of your team, both staff and volunteer, who help determine where each prospect sits in the cultivation cycle. Here are the six major prospect stages you should use to define a donor’s current status:
- Discovery. In this stage, capacity and affinity have been verified, but no personal visit has occurred.
- Early Cultivation. This is the stage in which an initial visit has occurred but not much else.
- Mid-Cultivation. Potential donors in this stage may have interacted with your major gift officers multiple times and the relationship is advancing.
- Ready to Solicit. In this stage, above average interest in the case for support has been verified and a major gift “ask” wouldn’t damage the relationship.
- Proposal Pending. This is the stage in which a major gift proposal has been presented to the donor.
- Stewardship. This is the final stage in which a previous major gift has been made, but a discussion about another major gift is premature.
Careful determination of the prospect stage of each donor prospect is a key step in the assessment of the philanthropic potential of the overall prospect pool. Identifying where your potential major givers are in this process impacts everything you do, from the way you interact to the information you share.
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