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2017 March (Alumni Giving) Madness – The Sweet (Alumni) 16

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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We’ve had a great response to our first round of the 2017 March (Alumni Giving) Madness tournament. It’s time for Round 2, which names the top 16 of our alumni giving tournament winners.

This alumni giving tournament is our fun way to look at higher education fundraising and dive into the stats. It started last year when one member of our team asked the question:

What if the NCAA brackets were decided based on alumni giving statistics?

You can read about the methodology we’re using to answer the question this year in our first post. The data comes from public sources, the Voluntary Support of Education Survey and the U.S. News and World Report college ranking data.

After narrowing to a field of 32 in our last round, there ware some great match ups for this round. Here are the round 2 results:

Click to expand

Second round insights:

I saw some similar things with the wins I commented on for the first round, but a few insights this round, focusing on alumni giving dollars:

  • Big gifts made a difference. While a significant portion of our methodology is on donor participation, several institutions just blew opponents out of the water with generous alumni major gifts or recently realized planned gifts. This “strong bench” factor, the total alumni giving over the past three years divided by the alumni of record, was weighted at 20 percent of the game. But there are extreme differences on the stat across higher education.This year’s teams ranged from $6 per living alumnus to $2,230 per alumnus annually. I’d call that a bit of a range. There was one match up where this stat was within $1, but that was a rarity.
  • Big giving is concentrated. Fewer than 1 percent of institutions raise 28 percent of higher education contributions, and that showed in this year’s alumni giving tournament. We covered this phenomenon in a webinar with Ann Kaplan, VSE director, a few weeks back.
  • Recent alumni wins swayed the results: For a few institutions, a relatively recent campaign or a few very large alumni gifts boosted this giving stat. One institution had a year that was 6x their average year, making a big difference in their overall score.

When we talked to hundreds of giving professionals last year, boosting major and planned giving was a top concern. Every institution wants the right strategy in place to help gift officers quickly identify, qualify and engage the most likely big donors.

As a coach, you wouldn’t go into a recruiting season without a plan. You also wouldn’t just do the same thing every year without making adjustments based on the prospect pool. Unfortunately, a lot of programs are just flying blind on major gift identification strategy. We’re in the midst of a historic wealth transfer, and the time is now to engage your biggest givers. Or another team (charity) is going to recruit them.

How do you win with major and planed giving productivity?

Does your team have what you need for a major and planned giving program with high productivity? You can’t engage big donors at scale without the right tools. Request our free calculator to see how you could improve your program immediately.

Stay tuned, next week we’ll release the results of round 3 which will take us to the Elite (Alumni) 8 of this year’s alumni giving winners.

2017 March (Alumni Giving) Madness – Round 1 Results

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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Update: See results for round 2

While many of you were watching the start of the NCAA basketball tournament, I was deep in fundraising statistics computing our March (Alumni Giving) Madness competition. This alumni giving tournament is a fun way to look at fundraising trends. It started last year when one member of our team asked the question:

What if the NCAA brackets were decided based on alumni giving statistics?

You can read about the methodology we’re using to answer the question this year in our first post. This alumni giving tournament looks at alumni participation, two different looks at alumni donor counts, total giving per alumnus and the institution’s online giving portals. The data comes from the Voluntary Support of Education Survey and the U.S. News and World Report college ranking data. There is also a small random factor to keep it interesting.

Click to expand

First round insights

  • There were some VERY close games. Our simulator assigned a score of up to 64 points to each institution, and one first round Men’s bracket match up was within 25 thousandths (.025) of a point. One Women’s bracket matchup was within .03 of a point.
  • Some great teams have missed shots with online giving vs. peers since our last tournament. One major player fared pretty poorly vs. opponents after being a star in our 2016 tournament. They declined significantly in ease of online giving and their overall online donor portal. Because they were very close in score to their opponents, it cost them a win. Mobile optimization is absolutely crucial given that a majority of online donors will now be using a device to make a gift. Your online giving portal is a solicitation. Think critically about how easy and how engaging it is for donors to complete a gift.

How do you score with digital engagement?

One of the most important ways you can grow your donor base is through optimized online giving experiences. Soon, over half our alumni databases will be Millennials, who have grown up interacting online and in social-media rich environments.

If you’d like to see how you can improve your digital engagement, ask us for a Digital Engagement scorecard. Click here to request your free scorecard and one of our Fundraising Strategists will contact you.

And stay tuned, next week we’ll release the results of round 2 which will take us to the “Sweet 16” of this year’s alumni giving winners.

2017 March (Alumni Giving) Madness

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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March Madness is here, and we’re excited to kick off the second March (Alumni Giving) Madness bracket—the tournament where teams fight for the championship title based on their annual giving performance! As we wait for the final results: you might have a few questions.

How does it work?

Using the 2017 Men’s and Women’s NCAA brackets, we’ll apply a six-part methodology to determine the winner in each match up:
  • (25%) Overall team strength: the 2016 alumni participation figure reported to the VSE Survey.
  • (20%) Upward momentum going into the tournament: the increase or decline in alumni donor count from 2015 to 2016.
  • (20%) Recruiting strength and past tournament performance: The total increase or decline in alumni donors between 2007 and 2016.
  • (20%) A strong bench of dedicated team members: The total alumni giving in dollars divided by the alumni of record over the last three fiscal years (2014-16).
  • (10%) Getting a shot (gift) off: Our team of expert referees weigh in on a comparison between the two institutions’ online giving presence, including ease of online giving, giving day portal (if any), and crowdfunding. They grade how easy it was for an alumnus to “get a shot off” and make a gift.
  • (5%) Pure luck: Our simulator assigns a small portion of each team’s score to a random factor.
Statistics are publicly available data, and the 2016 VSE Survey will be primarily utilized along with annual donor reports from school websites and alumni participation numbers submitted for the U.S. News & World Report rankings. These numbers and ratings go into our simulator, and a winner is determined for each match up.

Where can I find the results?

All bracket updates will be posted here on our blog, with this tentative schedule:

My school isn’t in the NCAA baseketball tournament—can I still participate?

2017 March Alumni Giving Madness tournamentYou can find out how your alumni giving compares to your peers by requesting a Donor Comparison Report. Using data from the VSE survey, this report allows you to benchmark your fundraising results and identify alumni giving trends. Request your free report here.

What happened in the last March (Alumni Giving) Madness tournament?

Check out the results of last year’s tournament here.

Friday Update: The best fundraising boss

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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The Friday Fundraising Update collects fundraising industry insights and success stories and delivers them to you each Friday from Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

This week’s articles feature advice on how to be the best fundraising boss, and how to work with your leader more effectively.

From around the web:

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Friday Update: Opportunities and fundraising myths

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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The Friday Fundraising Update collects fundraising industry insights and success stories and delivers them to you each Friday from Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

This week we have some links to posts by a few provocative contributors who ask questions about our assumptions and challenge us to take advantage of fundraising opportunities before it’s too late.

From around the web:

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Maximize your phonathon ROI with cell append research

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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Your phonathon campaign is at risk of not reaching your potential donors. Increasingly, donors have cut the cord on their land lines and only use mobile phones, so many of the numbers in your database may be bad. The good news is that RNL has a cost-effective way to seek quality cell phone numbers for your donors and prospects.

RNL Cell Phone Append Research allows you to:

  • Grow your phone solicitations and raise more money by calling people for whom you don’t currently have a phone number associated.
  • Have a second number available for people whose number is confirmed to be disconnected or wrong.

Try our free RNL Cell Phone Append ROI Calculator to estimate the additional pledge dollars you will raise this year with an investment in cell phone append research. We’ve populated the calculator with our average statistics from hundreds of thousands of numbers researched during 2015-2016..

 

Contact us to learn how we can help you reach your donors and increase phonathon ROI.

“Over the past two fiscal years, [Ruffalo Noel Levitz] cell append research has allowed us to reengage with 22,695 alumni resulting in over $363,690 from 4,637 pledges. Cell append is now a key component of our annual giving strategy!”

Elizabeth Ullian
Senior Associate Director of the Florida Fund
University of Florida

Friday Update: Fundraising sages share advice

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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The Friday Fundraising Update collects fundraising industry insights and success stories and delivers them to you each Friday from Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

This week we have some links to posts by a few of the best fundraising sages out there on how to build relationships, retain donors, and consider volunteer opportunities.

From around the web:

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What is the Special Ingredient that Leads to #Fundraising Success?
Michael Rosen Says… (Feb 24 2017)

Do you know the special ingredient for creating fundraising success? You’ll notice I didn’t say “secret ingredient.” That’s because it’s not a secret. It’s actually common sense….

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The 5 Immutable Laws of Great Non-Profit Fundraising
thefundraisingauthority.com (Feb 23 2017)

Much of fundraising is an art, not a science. Knowing when a prospect is ripe for an ask, or how to craft a case for support that really tugs on the heartstrings, takes experience and practice. There are, however, several immutable, undeniable laws of great fundraising that are so very essential to the process that they can’t be overstated…

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5 Steps to Build Steadfast Donor Loyalty & Retention in 2017
Gail Perry (Feb 23 2017)

We’re having some fun with donor retention today. We do know that donor retention = donor loyalty, right? So donor retention is the name of the game for 2017 and beyond. And your ultimate goal as a fundraiser is to build up a cadre of high value, high commitment donors, right? To help you, here are 5 simple, doable, practical, and wildly important tips that can help you increase YOUR donor loyalty…

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So, You Are Thinking of Becoming a Volunteer? Here Are Some Things to Consider
NonProfit PRO (Feb 24 2017)

Duke offers some great advice as you consider becoming a volunteer and as we work with volunteers…

Spotlight: Consult our fundraising sages

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Friday Update: Fundraising infographics

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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The Friday Fundraising Update collects fundraising industry insights and success stories and delivers them to you each Friday from Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

This week we have some links to fundraising infographics and reports with great visual representation of fundraising trends and tactics.

From around the web:

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AFP Fundraising Effectiveness Project Reports
Fundraising Effectiveness Project

The groundbreaking annual Fundraising Effectiveness Survey, piloted in November 2006, offers great statistics you can use to benchmark your program. Check out the 2016 report for the latest trends.

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How Nonprofit Communicators Spend Their Time (Infographic) #NPCOMM2017
Nonprofit Marketing Guide

Do you wonder if other nonprofit communicators are spending as much time on certain tasks as you? Check out the results from the 2017 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report and see for yourself.

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Measuring Gift Impact
Annual Giving Network

Today’s donors seem to care less about hearing stories that describe why other donors give or seeing their own name listed on a roster. Instead, they want to know what, in measurable terms, their past support has helped to achieve.

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The most important words of your email?
FundraisingCoach.com

Is your inbox filled with holiday sales, year end reminders, and charity appeals? It can be challenging to make your own nonprofit’s emails standout!

Spotlight: Major and planned giving productivity

You can’t book big gifts if your team isn’t productive. We’ve heard from hundreds of major and planned giving professionals over the past year about key hurdles to reaching the best and most ready donors.

Fundraising infographics: what major and planned giving officers told us

RNL consultants recently sounded off on our plan to help institutions double their results, and you can check out these features on major giving team productivity:

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$41 Billion in higher education giving recorded by VSE survey for 2016

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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I’m a big fan of the Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey. For 50 years, it’s been the survey of record for higher education giving, both from individuals and grant makers. We just received the 2016 results from the Council for Aid to Education.

Here are a few highlights from this year’s VSE results and what I think they mean for us as fundraisers:

  • Donors once again set a record for higher education support at $41 billion. But since this is only a bit higher than the $40.3 billion raised in 2015, the increase is almost completely erased when you consider inflation.
  • One of the big factors here is a soft 2016 stock market, and the fact that we’re coming off successive years of big increases as well as some big art and property gifts that blew up the totals. The election and delays by donors as they watched what would happen could have also contributed. With the stock surges we’ve seen early this year, we could see some big movement in 2017 results. Two big contributors—tax policy and our fundraising strategies, will matter.
  • Less than 1% of institutions continue to raise more than 27% of the funds. This “Matthew Effect” is a continuing trend in higher education giving. That doesn’t mean that the other 99% of schools aren’t raising money, we just see mega-giving really concentrated in this elite group.
  • Individual giving, at first glance, seems down. But there has been a massive increase in the impact of family foundations and donor-advised funds that we’ve all been hearing about. These really are gifts driven by individuals. When we look at institutions that itemized these sources, we find that personal giving would actually be up substantially for yet another year. Be sure that you are correctly accounting these gifts and tying stewardship to the individuals who drove them.

Higher education giving by source, 2016

  • Alumni participation is down once again. This is definitely impacted by larger donor rolls and our ability to stay in touch with alumni, but donor counts are also down at many institutions.
  • Giving to current operations has really pulled away from capital support over the past 20 years. This is good news for fundraisers looking to address current needs.

Higher education giving as a percentage of total support

  • The survey data show a real diversification of donor sources at top institutions. Parents and non-alumni friends of institutions are an increasing part of higher education giving.

It’s important to recognize that the VSE survey primarily tracks actual receipts by institutions, not overall commitments. We’re in the middle of a giant wealth transfer right now, and many institutions are also booking significant legacy commitments which are not covered in this survey and will be shown decades from now as those gifts come to bear.

With the VSE’s annual publication (and even better, a VSE Data Miner account), you can benchmark your institution and see how you compare to peers. I’ve also found that the standardized data collected by the VSE can be a great way to look at your own institution’s trends. Giving staff rosters and database systems change, but the VSE’s reporting definitions remain steady—so if someone at your institution is consistently reporting your results, the data they store on your institution can be very helpful to track trends.

Read the full VSE press release at the Council for Aid to Education.

Join us for a webinar on higher education giving

We’ll be going in depth with Ann Kaplan, director of the VSE survey and data miner, in our webinar on March 1 at 2:00 ET. Join us as we explore the results and what they mean for your fundraising strategy. Ann will also take your questions. We’ll see you there.

Webinar on higher education giving

 

Podcast: Major and planned giving productivity

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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Podcast on major and planned giving productivityYou just can’t book big gifts if your fundraising team isn’t productive. This is a top concern for fundraisers who are being asked to book bigger and bigger giving totals each year. Ruffalo Noel Levitz talked to hundreds of major and planned giving fundraisers in 2016 and heard some common roadblocks that are holding teams back: finding the right donors to talk to, supporting gift officers with good information and training, and preparing donors and fundraisers for great visits. Add in gift officer turnover, and many organizations are struggling to reach their fundraising potential.

So we embarked on the creation of a solution that’s great for both donors and fundraisers. This podcast features 7 RNL leaders providing a look “under the hood” to show how the solution came together.  They discuss what increasing productivity can mean for your aspirational fundraising goals.

Included are:

  • How predictive analysis of your donor base can take you beyond wealth rating.
  • How warming up donors before a conversation makes a difference.
  • Getting help with a first conversation to qualify donors and schedule a gift officer meeting.
  • Why productivity matters for your overall goals.

Ready to ramp up major and planned giving productivity?

Making Major Giving and Planned Giving More Productive

Click to get the paper

Start with our white paper, Making Major and Planned Giving More Productive, which illustrates how increases in efficiency and productivity can have a dramatic impact on your big gift results.

Find our more about RNL major and planned giving solutions, including case studies and testimonials at advance.ruffalonl.com.

And read more about our take on major and planned giving productivity at blogfm.ruffalonl.com.

Friday Update: To the fundraising future

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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The Friday Fundraising Update collects fundraising industry insights and success stories and delivers them to you each Friday from Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

This week we have some features about our fundraising future, from harnessing marketing automation, to predicting what’s next for annual giving.

From around the web:

  
Marketing Automation: It’s Not Going Away
NonProfit PRO

Last week, this piece on marketing automation ran in the Huffington Post pushing nonprofits to invest in marketing automation. I am here to beat the drum again, as it may be one of our most important conversations…

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Email Marketing: Busting Myths, Offering Insights
NonProfit PRO

Are you confused between “opinions” and “facts” when it comes to email marketing? Here’s a list of 104 answers for you…

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4 Schools That Create BuzzFeed-Inspired Content for Alumni and Students
EverTrue

BuzzFeed has flipped the journalism world on its head. From humorous top-10 lists to high-level news reporting, the tech company excels on both ends of the spectrum—and has done a great job of drawing in a younger audience because of it. Here are  4 schools that have harnessed this tactic.

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7 Predictions for 2017
Annual Giving Network

Dan Allenby offers predictions for annual giving professions in the coming year.

Spotlight: VSE survey records $41 billion in higher education support

VSE results 2017: what they mean for our fundraising future

  • Giving of $41 billion sets another record (before inflation), and the majority of giving was to current operations over endowments.
  • Gifts recorded by individuals seem to have declined following several big years of increases. However, when you consider significant growth in family foundations, closely held organizations and donor-advised fund gifts, gifts primarily directed by individuals could be growing.
  • Alumni participation continues to decline, and the top 1% of institutions continue to raise a very large portion of the total funds.

Read the VSE Press Release here and stay tuned for our analysis of this year’s results. Mark your calendar for 2:00 p.m. on March 1 when Ann Kaplan, VSE director, will join us for a live webinar to discuss the results and what they mean for fundraisers.

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Donor warming: major and planned giving for the modern advancement team

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Josh Robertson

Vice President of Product Strategy at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Josh has over 17 years of experience in the industry, oversees fundraising strategy, analytics and product development and has worked with over 100+ institutions.
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The second in a four-part series on how institutions and nonprofit organizations can re-imagine how to identify, warm, and qualify major giving and planned giving prospects, along with how to analyze the success from those efforts. Read part 1 here.

Part 2:  Keeping your major gift prospects warm

You have donors with propensity to give and you have donors with predicted wealth. As we discussed in the first blog in this series, when those two attributes combine you have what many consider to be the perfect major giving prospect.  For those entering or in a campaign, you likely have identified a large new cadre of major gift prospects that you hope and expect are primed for making a transformational gift.

So now it’s time to assign a major gift officer and begin qualifying this large pool of new major giving prospects through personal outreach…or is it?  There are two roadblocks that we have to overcome before we embark upon the engagement and qualification calls that are part of donor warming:

  1. Donor education about major giving: Most major giving prospects will have a long history of giving and may be inclined to continue giving. That said, past communication from your organization may not be conveying your transformational gift opportunities. Educating these loyal donors is key before any qualification call.
  2. Major gift officer portfolio size: While having a large group of identified prospects can seem like a great problem to have, the reality is a large group of new prospects with no history of making major gifts can very easily fall under your gift officer radar. These new opportunities aren’t likely going to rise to the top of a major gift officer list of donors to engage, especially when they are trying to close gifts from proven major donors. Commonly, these prospects are also removed from at least some of the annual giving appeals, which means a group of proven donors can begin to languish, ignored, without the same level of outreach that they have come to expect from your organization. Big gift officer portfolios, instead of opportunity, can spell disaster.

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