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Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 10.05.44 AM.png.002As expectations for nonprofit leaders continue to grow and annual giving continues to decline, many nonprofits have turned their focus to major gifts as a way to fund their mission. This has made the role of the major gift officer more important than ever. However, many nonprofits are struggling to establish the processes and systems that will set up their major giving program for success.

Most of the frustration experienced by a flailing major giving program is created when nonprofit leaders don’t ask the right questions. Some focus on what characteristics a major gift officer should possess before they ever define what a major gift is. Others set goals for their major gift officers before taking the time to dive into their donor pool. Knowing what questions to ask and answer is the foundation for any successful major giving program.

6 Questions Nonprofits Should Answer about Major Gift Officers

If you want to set up your major gift officer for success, here are six questions you need to be able to answer:

  1. What exactly is a major gift? This answer might differ based on your fundraising style. However, the typical major gift for most nonprofits is $25,000. Defining the dollar amount for a major gift sets the stage for how you’re going to establish goals, create a strategy, and interact with potential donors.
  2. Who are the major gift prospects in our database? Before making portfolio assignments to your gift officers, a major gift donor pool must be established. The combined evaluation of wealth data, RFM, and behavioral information can help you prioritize your list of major gift prospects.
  3. How are we going to assess the short-term potential of the prospect pool? 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.
  4. How many prospects can a major gift officer reasonably handle? After you’ve identified your pool of potential donors, establishing portfolio size for each gift officer is a good next step. The current trend is toward smaller portfolios of 80 to 150 prospective donors.
  5. How are we going to assign prospects to a gift officer? Your major donor portfolio mix should differ from one gift officer to another based on circumstances such as existing relationships or geographic locations. You should also strive for a balance between Discovery Prospects (30 percent), Early and Mid-Cultivation Prospects (40 percent), and Ready to Solicit/Proposal Pending Prospects (30 percent).
  6. How do we set achievable goals? Some organizations may have higher personal expectations for their gift officers, which may or may not be realistic. Taking the time to think this through will help ensure that achievable goals are established that properly assess the organization’s short-term philanthropic potential.
Are you ready to create a successful major giving program?

Taking the time to define success and add accountability metrics for your major gift officer benefits everyone involved — your nonprofit, your gift officer, and your donor. It’s important to answer these questions before you make another ask.

What are you doing to set up your major gift officers for success? What strategies have you found to be most successful?